Volleyball: Hawks end Oconto Falls’ postseason run

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Coach says team was outplayed
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Oconto Falls High School seniors Olivia Steffens (8) and Stephanie Peitersen (5) move up to block Julia Klement’s attack in a loss during a WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal on Thursday at Shawano. (Times Herald photo by Jacy Zollar)

Shawano ended Oconto Falls’ postseason run in three sets Thursday in a WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal.

“It’s mixed emotions,” Oconto Falls head coach Rachel Otto said after the match. “It’s sad to see a season come to an end. I really enjoyed the group of girls we had this year.”

The Hawks topped the Panthers 25-6, 25-18 and 25-17 before a roaring gymnasium crowd in Shawano.

Shawano utilized its loud home court advantage to take the momentum from the start. Oconto Falls managed its points in the first set on three Sarah Sprout kills and three Hawks errors.

The Panthers improved their passing game in the final two sets to close the deficit, but it wasn’t enough to top the Hawks.

Oconto Falls (23-15-1) kept up with Shawano (27-10) for the first four points of set two, but the Hawks took off with 12 of the next 15 points to lead 16-7. Stephanie Peitersen’s tip set the Panthers on a rally to close the deficit 19-15, but the Hawks took back momentum to win the set 25-18.

The Panthers took their only lead of the night, 2-1, to start the third set. The Hawks came back to lead 6-3, and Oconto Falls then closed the deficit to one. The Panthers continued to stay close for the first half of the set, but eventually the Hawks cruised to a 24-17 set point, and a block on Sprout’s attack ended the match 25-17.

Sprout led Oconto Falls with seven kills. Kaitlyn St. Louis had 12 assists, and Samantha Coron tallied 16 digs.

Averi Vomastic and Rachel Reed each tallied nine kills for the Hawks. Bayleigh Laabs recorded 17 assists, and Kyra Klement tallied 14 digs.

“I have to give it to Shawano,” Otto said. “They brought their A-game. All of their hitters were getting the job done. They just played better than us, plain and simple.

“We had it tough in the first match, but I love that they didn’t give up in the second and third sets. They had moments where they gained momentum, but we just fell short.”

“We knew they were going to be a competitive team,” Shawano head coach Breanna Young said. “It was a good match when we played them earlier this season. They have some strong hitters, but we just kept moving on defense and were able to shut down their offense.”

Sprout said the team was proud to make it to the postseason.

“We knew we weren’t going to be making it to state, but we just wanted to see how far we could get,” she said. “We gave it our all, so we can walk away with our heads held high. We were really scrappy out there.”

The match wasn’t Sprout’s last. The team’s top hitter plans on playing at St. Norbert College in De Pere next year.

“It’s sad to see the season end with these girls,” Sprout said. “We had a lot of fun. But it feels better knowing that I’ll be playing again, and that’ll just be another chapter of my journey.”

No. 4 Shawano fell in three sets to top-seeded Notre Dame on Saturday. Notre Dame advanced to the sectional on Thursday to take on No. 2 Luxemburg-Casco in Oconto Falls.