Oconto Falls continues strong volleyball season with sweep

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Panthers outplay Freedom
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Oconto Falls senior Stephanie Peitersen posts a hit over Freedom's blockers in the Sept. 21 sweep. (Times Herald photo by Jacy Zollar)

Oconto Falls posted long rallies and capitalized on Freedom’s errors to sweep the Irish in a tough North Eastern Conference match on Thursday.

Freedom’s service and hitting errors accounted for a chunk of the Panthers’ points in the 25-15, 25-16, 25-19 win.

“The score doesn’t show how close the game actually was,” Oconto Falls head coach Rachell Otto said.

The teams opened the game with a long rally, but the Panthers were able to secure the first point and gain the initial momentum for a 25-15 win.

“From the first long serve we knew it was going to be a very competitive game between us,” outside hitter Sarah Sprout said. “I think getting the energy in the first game was huge for us.”

Freedom was able to keep up with the Panthers early in the second set. Kaitlyn St. Louis opened the game with a service ace. Oconto Falls rallied from 7-7 with two Sarah Sprout attacks, a St. Louis tip and three Freedom errors to increase the lead to 13-7. Freedom gave up the last two points of the set with service errors to lose 25-16.

Freedom (11-3, 2-3 NEC) posted the first point of Set 3 before giving up six points to Oconto Falls (16-9-1, 3-1 NEC). After Sprout missed a dig, Freedom rallied to a 7-6 lead, but a string of errors helped the Panthers regain the lead. Trailing 19-12, Freedom scored the next three points. Oconto Falls could feel the momentum swinging, but Otto called a timeout to settle her team. Samantha Coron’s match-winning kill finished the set, 25-19.

“They played tough throughout, but I could feel that energy starting to shift in the last set,” Otto said. “I told them, ‘Don’t let them get the momentum. We’re in control, let’s get back out there and finish the game.’ Because volleyball is a game of momentum and if it swings you never know what’s going to happen.”

Otto and Sprout said each player contributes to the team’s success.

“We all bring a different strength,” Sprout said. “We have Stephanie (Pietersen) who’s really good at blocking and hitting spots in the middle and Kaitlyn St. Louis who really has a great line shot. Those different things make us a successful team together.”

“Overall they don’t make a lot of mistakes, they’re pretty solid,” Otto said. “Sarah’s (Sprout) our leader, but after that everybody just does their job. It’s not flashy or anything but they dig well and I have a variety of different people that can go and put the ball in different spots.”

Sprout led the Panthers with nine kills, with Pietersen and St. Louis each adding seven. Emma Huberty recorded 26 assists. Samantha Coron tallied 24 digs followed by Josie Tolzman with 11.

“It was a huge win for us because they’re in our sectional, so this helps us get one more seed ahead and hopefully be able to secure a home sectional game,” Otto said.