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MCDONALD'S SWNEWS4U CO-GAME OF THE WEEK (SWAL Volleyball): Darlington 3, Southwestern 2
Birds swat down ‘Cats in five-set showdown
The Darlington Redbirds rallied from a 0–2 deficit to defeat Southwestern 3–2 in a SWAL volleyball match last Tuesday night.

SWAL VOLLEYBALL: Darlington 3, Southwestern 2

By Tom Gunnell, Republican Journal

'Birds swat down ‘Cats in five-set showdown

PDARLINGTON – In the first two sets against Southwestern on Tuesday night, Darlington could not get the lead. In the final three sets, the Redbirds would not let go of the lead.

The host Redbirds (13-9 overall, 8-4 SWAL) fell behind 0-2 to the Wildcats (8-4) to start the night, but mounted a furious rally posting three consecutive wins to stun the Wildcats, 3-2, in a SWAL showdown at DHS on Oct. 11.

“I’m happy with our performance tonight,” said Darlington head coach Danielle Duerst. “Southwestern is a very good team, so this was a big win for us. We were playing right with them the first two sets; but, in those last three sets, we were a whole different team.”

Southwestern pulled in front early in sets one and two and held off every Redbird rally to go up 2-0 with tight wins of 25-23 and 25-22.

With their backs against the net, Coach Duerst’s squad turned the tables and grabbed an early lead on the Wildcats in set three. A six-point service by senior Jada Ruf– aided by five combined kills for hitters Jaidyn Evenstad and Ava Hendrickson– turned a three-point lead into a 20-11 advantage, and the ‘Birds remained alive by rolling to a 25-16 decision.

The hosts rode the momentum into the fourth set with junior libero Zoie Zuberbuhler serving up six straight points of her own to put the team ahead 19-11. The ‘Cats got as close as six down the stretch until a kill by Evenstad secured a 25-18 win that deadlocked the match at 2-2.

The lead swapped hands three times early in the decisive fifth set. A net violation by the ‘Cats tied the score at 4-4, and then Ruf stepped to the line for another key turn at serve, starting with an ace and following with five more points to put Darlington ahead to stay at 10-4.

A kill and ace by Evenstad put the ‘Birds up 12-6. Southwestern got back within four before a tip kill by Aubrey McCarthy and a block kill by Jaylyn Schwartz got the hosts to match-point. A spike kill by McCarthy completed the comeback as the ‘Birds took the set, 15-8, and the match, 3-2, to split their season series against the ‘Cats.

“We picked up the intensity and that brought up our energy. They started to believe that there teammates were there to back them up,” Duerst stated. “Our defense was there and we were frustrating (Southwestern). They were sending a lot of free-balls over to us, which took away their good hitters, and that helped our offense get going.”

Evenstad finished with a team-high 12 kills to go with five blocks, while Hendrickson tallied eight kills and nine blocks in the win. Ruf registered eight kills, five blocks and a team-high five aces. 

McCarthy paced the offensive attack with 33 assists and she added 13 digs and three aces. Schwartz chipped in with 16 digs and seven kills, and Zuberbuhler had 10 digs.k

“We’re peaking at the perfect time of the season,” said Coach Duerst.

The WIAA Division 3 volleyball tournament began on Tuesday as the#6-seed Redbirds swept #11 seed Wisconsin Heights (4–22) in a regional quarterfinal match at DHS. Darlington will now face #3 seed River Ridge (23–0) in a regional semifinal contest tonight at 7 p.m.


Southwestern…  25  25  16  18    8
Darlington……..  23  22  25  25  15
Darlington Leaders– Kills: Jaidyn Evenstad 12, Jada Ruf 8, Ava Hendrickson 8, Jaylyn Schwartz 7. Blocks: Hendrickson 9, Ruf 5, Evenstad 5. Aces: Ruf 5, Aubrey McCarthy 3. Assists: McCarthy 33. Digs: Schwartz 16, McCarthy 13, Zoie Zuberbuhler 10.
At Darlington on Tuesday, Oct. 11