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Blue Devils Bow Out in State Semi

Issue Date: November 9, 2021

Blue Devils Fall to

Tigers in State

Semi-Final


Oconto's volleyball season came to an end in the state semifinal with a three-set loss to Howards Grove, but for a team that lost in the sectional championship two years in a row, experiencing the state tournament was something the Blue Devils will never forget.

After beating Oconto, Howards Grove would go on to win state, the third straight season the Tigers have taken the Division 3 crown. That experience at state was a big factor in the semifinal match, especially in the first set, which Howards Grove won by a 25-8 score.

The match was played at the Resch Center in Green Bay, with a large crowd there to take in the atmosphere.

"The nerves definitely got the best of us in the beginning of that set. Walking in, finally getting over our sectional championship hump, getting to state, super exciting for us, we were just very overwhelmed and excited at the same time going into state," Oconto senior McKenna Seidl said. "Just walking in there, we knew it would be a little tough in the first set because we weren't used to playing there. Howards Grove has played there. This is their third straight year they've been doing amazing and I think us facing them right away definitely got us into what state's like, how hard it's going to be and I think that really exposed us to what it was going to be like and that's why we came back in the second set, which we did."

Unlike the first set, the second set was a battle.

Oconto came out firing and took a 4-1 lead. After Howards Grove tied it at 6-6, Oconto re-gained a 9-6 lead on a block by Hannah Moe and Olivia Brzozowski.

The Blue Devils held the lead at 23-20, but Howards Grove reeled off six of the next seven points, the first four of which came on kills by Karissa Kaminski. She would finish with 14 kills, the most of any player.

Oconto's Lianna Baxter, who finished the match with five kills, has played on a club team with Kaminski, so she knew exactly how good Kaminski could be.

"She's a good player," Baxter said. In the end, Kaminski and the rest of the Tigers proved to be too much for Oconto.

"Personally, for me, I thought we pushed really hard as a team to the end and we had a lot of energy going into that set, we just couldn't put it together at the end," Seidl said. "They just had a little more push at the end of the game. I would have loved to see us push through that one set so we could play another one at the end, but I think for us as a team, we've just got to put it together a little bit more and we haven't been able to do that. Howards Grove really just took advantage of the spots that we were lacking on and they did a really good job."

The third set was all Howards Grove, finishing 25-11. A 10-1 run to make it 19-6 put the Tigers in the driver's seat and they never looked back.

Moe said the Tigers' serve and serve-receive is where they shine.

"Howards Grove, they have a very, very great serve. We've seen a lot of great servers over the years, but they just are renownedly known as just an amazing serving team and an amazing serve-receive team and they played very well," Moe said. "I think a mix of the nerves and seeing this amazing competition, it scared us a little bit and it showed in the game."

Despite the loss, the Blue Devils won't have any regrets about how their season went. They made it past the sectional championship and on to the school's third-ever state tournament.

"How many teams in this state get to end their season here? It's just so amazing," Baxter said.

"It feels so amazing to even be here and get this experience, because I know it is something that none of us will ever forget," Moe said. "It feels great to be here. I'm so happy that as seniors, we get to end on going to state."

Oconto finished the season with a 39-3 record including tournament matches.

"This was a great season for us. It would have been nice if we had a little bit stronger competition going through our region, just so we could get ready for this," Oconto coach Adrian De La Cruz said. "We ran into Stanley-Boyd, which is an amazing team, got through them, and then we all saw what Howards Grove can do to people. There's a reason why they're the No. 5 team in the state, via MaxPreps, and they just showed it to us ?? great team on the other side."

Leaving the Oconto program are eight seniors: Leah Allen, Maycie Phillips, Brzozowski, Madeline Johnson, Moe, Baxter, Emmy Reed and Seidl.

"We have eight seniors on our team who have been pushing for the past four years to get to this point. The past two years, we've lost in the sectional championship, just falling short of state," Seidl said. "This year, we really came in as seniors really, really wanting to get here. We put so much heart and so much time out of practice to get to this point. It just felt so amazing for our last season to just get here and experience this because it's such an amazing feeling. I'm just really happy to finally get here."

Moe had eight kills, Kate Barhke led the team with 17 assists and Allen led the Blue Devils with six digs.


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