HAZEL GREEN — Southwestern junior Michelle Budden was a pain in the side of the Potosi Chieftains on both sides of the net.
The 6-foot middle hitter slammed a match-high 30 kills and made a total of 11 blocks — most of them on Potosi’s senior standout Taylor Kennedy — and served up three aces to lead the Wildcats to a 30–32, 25–11, 25–11, 25–13 WIAA Division 4 regional final victory over the second-seed Chieftains Saturday night.
“Budden was very tough that night,” said Potosi head coach Jolene Murray. “Taylor was struggling in getting her hits around her and lost some confidence pretty early in that match. It’s a tough match up when you put a girl who is 5–7 up against a 6–footer who is also very athletic. Taylor has been a huge force for us all year, so when that gets taken out of the equation, it definitely hurts.”
After Potosi pulled out a narrow 32–30 victory in the opening set, Budden took over and the rest of the match was all Southwestern. The Chieftains never scored more than 13 points in any of the final three sets.
“Their defense was very tough, and we had a lot of balls that normally would have dropped that didn't,” said Murray. “Slowly, the girls lost confidence. Budden just kept feeding off of that.”
Kennedy finished the match with eight kills. Junior Maddie Hawes led Potosi with 11 kills. Taryn Stappert made 18 digs in the loss.
Southwestern (25-4) advanced to face River Ridge (17–5–2) in Thursday’s sectional semifinals. Meanwhile Potosi finished the season 21–9 overall.
“It was a disappointing loss, but the girls have a lot to be proud of this year, and I hope that loss is not what sticks in their head about their season,” said Murray. “I think if Southwestern continues to play like they did on Saturday, they have a very realistic chance of making it to state.”
Last Thursday after losing the first set, the Chieftains battled back to win a five-set thriller against sixth-seeded Barneveld 11–25, 25–16, 18–25, 25–23, 17–15.
After being manhandled in the opening set by a fired up Barneveld squad, Potosi battled back to win two of the next three sets to force a decisive fifth set.
The Chieftains had to fight again in the final set. Potosi fell behind 13–11 and the visiting Eagles had match-point at 14–13, but Murray’s Chieftains scored three of the final four points to pull out the win.
“Thursday's match was a huge win,” said Murray. “Barneveld brought it all to the table. That was one of the most exciting matches we've had all year, and we've had a lot. These girls have been fighters and they fought off a 13–11 deficit in the fifth and then a 14–13 deficit as well. That takes heart to stick in those moments and pull out the win.
“The crowd was a factor early in that match as you can see from the first set. Barneveld also came out firing and put us back on our heals. The girls really just needed to get out of that first set and settle down, and they did. They had never played in front of a crowd that was that loud before, which is tough for the inexperience on our team. They handled it well after getting those first game jitters out of the way.”
Kennedy finished the match with 25 kills. Junior Calie Gibson passed out 37 assists.
Last Tuesday Potosi opened the playoffs with a 25–8, 25–19, 25–20 sweep of Shullsburg.
WIAA Division 4 Regional Quarterfinal
Potosi 3, Shullsburg 0
(from Tuesday, Oct. 21 @ Potosi)
#7 Shullsburg 8 19 20
#2 Potosi 25 25 25
Potosi stat leaders
Kills: Taylor Kennedy 25, Maddie Hawes 14. Blocks: Kennedy 4, Abby Kaiser 2. Assists: Calie Gibson 28, Taylor Bloyer 5. Aces: Kennedy 4, Kaiser 2. Digs: Calie Gibson 12, Taryn Stappert 11, Hawes 11, Emily Langmeier 11.
WIAA Division 4 Regional Semifinal
Potosi 3, Barneveld 2
(from Thursday, Oct. 23 @ Potosi)
#6 Barneveld 25 16 25 23 15
#2 Potosi 11 25 18 25 17
Potosi stat leaders
Kills: Taylor Kennedy 25. Blocks: Maddie Hawes 2, Abby Kaiser 2. Assists: Calie Gibson 37. Aces: Kennedy 7. Digs: Taryn Stappert 24.
WIAA Division 4 Regional Final
Southwestern 3, Potosi 1
(from Saturday, Oct. 25 @ Hazel Green)
#2 Potosi 32 15 11 13
#1 Southwestern 30 25 25 25
Potosi stat leaders
Kills: Maddie Hawes 11. Blocks: Taylor Kennedy 1, Calie Gibson 1. Assists: Calie Gibson 16. Aces: Stappert 1, Kennedy 1. Digs: Taryn Stappert 18.