Westosha Central edged Wilmot Thursday in a three-game sweep. Twila Dovas, far left, celebrates a point with her teammates led by Kennedy Muff, front row, center. Along with Muff, Sierra Lee and Ella Kaebisch (middle row) joined Olivia Hinze and Laura Shoopman in the celebration (Earlene Frederick/The Report).

Falcons edge rival Wilmot Thursday

By Jason Arndt

For the third time this season, the Westosha Central girls volleyball team swept Wilmot Union, but the Panthers refused to quit in Thursday’s WIAA Division 1 regional.

The Falcons, who won the first two sets 25-18, 25-13, narrowly escaped with a 25-23 set verdict to come away with the sweep.

Westosha Central coach Megan Awe, whose team hosts No. 6 Stoughton Saturday, said the Panthers challenged the Falcons in both the first and third sets.

“(Wilmot) played a great match, the girls were driven and pursued every ball and they did a really good job blocking at the net against us,” Awe said.

The Panthers’ perseverance, according to coach Kevin Raap, was a positive takeaway from the regional against Westosha Central.

“I am just excited for what the girls did, they worked their butts off and I couldn’t be more proud of them.” he said.

Westosha Central, which improved to 22-19, plays a Stoughton team that boasts a 20-9 overall record but finished 4-6 in the Badger South Conference.

Falcon hitters come out swinging
Entering Thursday’s contest, the Falcons had a renewed outlook on their approach to hitting, which was the focal point of practice this week.

The focal point paid off, as the Falcons three hitters, Laura Shoopman, Ella Kaebisch and Sierra Lee combined for 35 of the team’s 40 kills.

Shoopman, who eclipsed 500 season kills in the second set, contributed 14 on Thursday and tabulated a .321 hitting percentage.

Meanwhile, for Kaebisch, who had a .316 hitting percentage, she produced 11 kills, including one to seal the Falcons’ first set win.

“Offensively, we worked a lot on shot selection the past week,” Awe said.

According to setter Kennedy Muff, who notched 30 assists Thursday, one of her main objectives was to wear down the Panthers front row by creating different scoring opportunities.

“For me, I had to mix it up a lot,” said Muff, who added a game-high three blocks.

Wilmot senior Sam Serak finishes a dig against the Falcons Thursday (Earlene Frederick/The Report).

Wilmot’s front row steps up
In the first set, where the Panthers had the lead on four occasions, outside hitter Sam Serak made several key kills, including one to extend an early lead to 9-7.

Another key spike for Serak, who finished with five kills, happened when the Panthers trailed 11-9 to pull the first set within one point.

“I have said this all year, Sam Serak has played the best offense she has in her four years,” Raap said. “She has developed so much as a front row player that if defenses don’t plan around her, they are silly.”

Westosha Central, however, regained rhythm to claim the first set 25-18, courtesy of a closing kill by Kaebisch.

After a challenging second set, the Panthers found rejuvenation in the third set, where they held their longest lead, which started at 7-6 until the Falcons deadlocked the set 18-18.

Through its longest lead, Wilmot received two of Karina Leber’s five kills and another from Becca Bell, who also finished with five kills and added seven assists.

With the score deadlocked at 18-18 in the third set, the Falcons regained focus to reclaim the lead at 19-18, courtesy of a Lee service ace.

Wilmot, however, continued to push back, tying the contest two more times, with the first at 19 and the other at 23.

From there, the Falcons received a Lee spike followed by a match-setting service from Kaebisch.

“In the second set, I think the girls were a little more relaxed, and they were finding their rhythm,” Awe said. “I think in that third set, we got a little too relaxed, but at the end, we buckled down.”

Everyone contributed
According to Awe, Thursday’s victory was a collaborative performance, where all 14 players contributed.

McKenna Hall, who led with 13 of the Falcons’ 40 points, opened the third set with back-to-back aces.

In addition to 13 points and two service aces, Hall dove in for nine digs.

Kaitlynn Ellis, who closed out the second set with a block, added another to finish with two.

Defensively, Twila Dovas had 14 digs.

“For the most part, our girls did a really good job of seeing the court,” Awe said.

Farewell to seniors
As the Falcons extended their season, it marked the end for Wilmot, which loses seven seniors.

Along with Serak and Bell, the Panthers lose captain Sara Bedessem, Sydney Helmuth, Stephanie Ollinger, Ashley Lesko and Rachel Jenkins.

Bedessem, who led the Panthers with nine assists, made an immediate impact as a junior transfer last year, according to Raap.

The senior losses, added Raap, could prove difficult.

“Irreplaceable,” he said. “They are going to be missed severely.”

Wilmot finished its season 7-18.


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