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MCDONALD'S GAME OF THE WEEK (SWAL Volleyball): Cuba City 3, Darlington 1
Cubans lock down outright SWAL crown with win over visiting Redbirds
Cuba City celebrat
The Cuba City volleyball team celebrates its victory over Darlington Thursday, Oct. 17. The four-set victory over the Redbirds secured the outright SWAL title. - photo by Tom Gunnell

SWAL VOLLEYBALL: Cuba City 3, Darlington 1

CUBA CITY – The Cuba City Cubans earned the right to call themselves champions on Thursday night.

Trailing 10-1 in the pivotal fourth set against the host Darlington Redbirds, the Lady Cubans dug down deep and mounted a stunning come-from-behind rally to secure the victory they needed to lock down the outright SWAL volleyball title for the third season in a row.

“At the beginning of the season, I said there were going to be a lot of close matches in the SWAL and there were, After we dropped the match to Riverdale (on Sept. 17), I think it woke us up. I’m proud of how they took control during the second half of the season to earn the championship. It’s great. We’ll celebrate for a few hours, then it’s back to work knowing full well if things go well for both of us on Tuesday, we’re going to see each other again in the regional semifinal round.”

The Cubans (23-8 overall, 11-1 SWAL) outlasted the upset-minded Redbirds in that fourth set, 31-29, for a 3-1 victory in their SWAL finale at DHS on Thursday, Oct. 17.

Darlington (16-11, 9-3) could have earned a share of the SWAL crown– their first since 2000– along with the Cubans with a win on Thursday night, and they gave everything they had to make it happen. However, the ‘Birds had to settle for a second-place finish for the fourth season in a row.

“I knew Darlington was going to be ready to go. They executed well. They were very patient and their defense rocked it tonight,” admitted Lawson. “It could have gone either way. If it would have went to five (sets), I think it would have been tough for us to beat them.”

After falling 25-23 in a back-and-forth opening set, the Redbirds evened the match at 1-1 with a 25-18 decision in set two. The Cubans regained the momentum with a 25-20 win in set three, but it appeared the two foes would be headed for their second five-set match of the season after the host ‘Birds bolted out to a 10-1 advantage to start the fourth set.

Coach Lawson crew fought back with a 21-7 scoring run to turn the nine-point deficit into a 22-17 advantage that placed them on the verge of the victory. However, it was Darlington’s turn to rally as they used a 7-1 burst to regain the lead and get it to set-point for the first time.

A missed served tied the match at 24 all. The ‘Birds got it to set-point three more times, but the Cubans held them off each time. A kill by sophomore Hailey Stich tied the score once more at 27-27, and then an ace by her senior sister, Kayla, put the Cubans back on top at 28-27.

The Redbirds fought off set-point twice until a kill by H. Stich thrust the Cubans back into the lead for good, and she followed by firing home a service ace to secure the set and the match with a 31-29 decision.

“Darlington did not go away all night long. I give my team a lot of credit. All the energy it took just to comeback to get even was something else, and then we had to keep that energy up to earn the victory. It was a great effort,” Lawson said.

H. Stich registered 22 kills, 22 digs and three aces to guide the Cubans attack, and K. Stich tallied 21 assists and two aces for the victors.

Senior Sophia Sander slammed nine kills and senior Parker Kopp added eight kills and 11 digs, while senior Mati Terpstra led the team with six blocks and senior Kiera Holzemer chipped in with 14 digs and three aces. Senior setter Autumn Deppe distributed 15 assists for the Cubans.

Junior Sydney Beasley led Darlington with 26 kills. Sophomore Taylor Wedig scored seven blocks and junior Laura Sturz handed out a match-high 24 assists for the ‘Birds, while senior Brenna McDonald tallied 18 digs and two aces and fellow senior Lizzie Schwartz added 18 assists and two aces.

“I was very proud and impressed with the composure and fight in my girls showed against Cuba City on a pretty big stage. They played some of the best defense I’ve seen all year and gave 110 percent at all positions. I felt that we made them earn every point,” said Darlington head coach Jennifer Schwartz.

The Cubans opened the week by sweeping the visiting Boscobel Bulldogs, 25-10, 25-1, 25-13, on Senior Night at CCHS on Tuesday, Oct. 15.

In set two, senior Kayla Stich got the team rolling with a 14-point service run to open the set; then, after securing a quick sideout, senior Madison Calvert followed with 11 straight service points for a 25-1 win.

K. Stich finished the night with 10 service aces and nine assists. H. Stich led the Cubans with 13 kills, while Holzemer contributed five kills, six digs and four aces and Deppe recorded 10 assists and four aces.

The Redbirds put themselves in position to earn a share of the SWAL crown by sweeping the host Mineral Point Pointers, 25-9, 25-23, 25-18, at MPHS on Tuesday, Oct. 15.

“We have talked all season long about preparing for the next team on the schedule, and I cautioned the girls not to look past Mineral Point. I thought they did a nice job staying focused and taking care of business against the Pointers,” Coach Schwartz pointed out.

McDonald led Darlington with 15 digs, seven blocks and three aces, and L. Schwartz tallied eight kills, five blocks and 12 assists in the victory.

Beasley hammered down 19 kills and Sturtz handed out 21 assists, while Kaylyn McGuire tallied seven digs.


Cuba City…...25   18   25   31
Darlington….23   25   20   29
CC Leaders– Kills: Hailey Stich 22, Sophia Sander 9, Parker Kopp 8. Blocks:  Mati Terpstra 6. Aces: H. Stich 3, Kiera Holzemer 3, Kayla Stich 2. Assists: K. Stich 21, Autumn Deppe 15. Digs: H. Stich 22, Madison Calvert 21, Holzemer 14, Kopp 11. Darlington Leaders– Kills: Sydney Beasley 26, Taylor Wedig 11, Lizzie Schwartz 9. Blocks: Wedig 7, Beasley 2, Brenna McDonald 2. Aces: McDonald 2, L. Schwartz 2. Assists: Laura Sturtz 24, L. Schwartz 18. Digs: McDonald 16, Kaylyn McGuire 8, Kaylee Schwartz 8.
 At Darlington, on Thursday, Oct. 17