GREEN BAY – Sweeps have been a trademark for the Benton volleyball team during their runs to conference, regional and sectional titles and their first-ever state berth this season. Unfortunately, the #7-ranked Zephyrs fell on the other end of a sweep in their state debut.
Lourdes Academy took down the Lady Zephyrs in straight sets, 25-23, 25-20, 25-15, in a WIAA Division 4 state semifinal volleyball match held at the Resch Center on Friday, Nov. 3.
“They kind of caught us out of system. It looked like our players were a bit nervous,” said Benton head coach Russell Hamm.
The Knights (31-10 overall) grabbed the first lead in each set and never let it go as they ended Benton’s 11-match winning streak with the sweep.
“We always believe in each other and ourselves,” remarked senior setter Kelsie Goffinet. “Not getting that point to get ahead was very frustrating. We still tried our hardest and believed the whole game.”
Benton (27-3) stayed right on Lourdes’ heels in the opening set, tying the score up five times– the last at 22 all on a kill by senior Emma Lawrence during a four-point run by the Zephyrs.
Following a timeout, the Knights regained the lead on back-to-back kills by Raechel Russo and Rachel Aasby; and then, after another kill by Lawrence, Lourdes earned the 25-23 win on a missed serve by the Zephyrs.
The Knights opened up an early lead in set two and built up an 18-11 advantage before the Zephyrs got back into it with an 8-2 scoring run to pull back within a point. Lourdes scored five of the final six points to go up 2-0.
“Falling behind by two (sets) is very difficult for young athletes to come back from. Nerves came into it,” Hamm admitted. “They had some size and we knew they would attack us from everywhere. There were no breaks coming our way the whole match. Every time we’d get some momentum going, we’d have an error and give it right back to them. They played great. They had us today.”
Lourdes started off strong again in set three, jumping ahead 8-1 to put the Zephyrs back on their heels. Benton closed the gap to 12-8, but the Knights answered back with a 9-4 run to go up 21-12 and then closed it out on back-to-back kills by Aasby.
“They caught us off-guard a bit. They knew our weaknesses on defense. We definitely did not play our best defense. It sucks having to go out like that, but props to them for finding our weaknesses,” said Lawrence.
Lawrence pounded down 18 kills along with two blocks and two aces to lead the way to earning a spot on the Division 4 All-Tournament Team.
Goffinet distributed 28 assists and added two aces, while senior Savannah Hilby tallied a team-high 10 digs.
“We came in confident, but we also knew we had to beat out butts to beat them. As a senior, it’s bittersweet to get this far and lose, but we just couldn’t come out with a win today,” commented Hilby. “I wouldn’t want any other group of girls to be by my side for this. Everyone’s going to remember what we did and all the little kids are looking up to us. It’s a great feeling.”
Junior Maggie Dougherty chipped in with five kills and seven digs, and junior Sophie Dougherty provided four kills and two blocks. Junior Lydia Jones had nine digs for the Zephyrs.
“We played outstanding all season. This is a goal we set. We achieved what no other team from Benton has done. We got to state for the first time ever, and that I will never forget. I’m so proud of these girls for that,” declared Hamm.
Aasby, a junior, hammered 18 kills and two aces for Lourdes, who went on to lose to Clayton, 25-15, 25-20, 25-27, 25-22, in Saturday’s D4 state championship match to settle for a runner-up trophy for a second year in a row.
Russo, a sophomore, had 17 kills and 10 digs in the match. Sophomore Claire Chier dished out 21 assists and added three blocks, while junior Ellie Mackenzie handed out 20 assists with two aces. Junior Morgan Thiel led the Knights with 15 digs.
The Knights, who have made three straight state tournament appearances, had only one senior on their team; while the Bears (32-2), who won the title this year after missing out on the gold in their state appearances the previous four years, did not have a single senior on their roster.
Playing in their final volleyball matches for the Zephyrs were seniors Kelsie Goffinet, Savannah Hilby, Emma Lawrence and Brianna Mellenberger, a group who accounted for 88 total victories and 40 conference wins during their four years at BHS with two Six Rivers West titles, two regional titles, one sectional title and the program’s first-ever state berth.
“They did a great job with their leadership. I couldn’t ask for a better group of girls. They made some amazing things happen this year,” boasted Hamm.
And, the seniors were honored by all the support they received during their run to state.
“It was amazing all the community support we had. It was really crazy, not only our town but all the other towns surrounding us. It was like everyone in our conference and the surrounding towns were one big town,” Lawrence stated.
Goffinet added to her teammates sentiments, “It was extremely overwhelming. It makes you feel really good knowing you have so many people supporting you. It was amazing to look up there and see all those people in the stands.”
WIAA D4 STATE SEMIFINAL
Benton………………. 23 20 15
Lourdes Academy… 25 25 25
Benton Leaders– Kills: Emma Lawrence 18. Blocks: Lawrence 2, Sophie Dougherty 2. Assists: Kelsie Goffinet 28. Aces: Lawrence 2, Goffinet 2. Digs: Savannah Hilby 10, Lydia Jones 9.
At Green Bay on Friday, Nov. 3