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Cuba City takes fifth at Edgerton tourney, splits first two SWAL matches
Taylor Pickel DSC0360
Taylor Pickel records one of her seven kills in the Cubans first SWAL home match against Riverdale last Thursday night.

The Cubans are off to a fast start in the SWAL suffering a 0-3 loss to Fennimore (24-26, 18-25, 20-25) on Aug. 31 and a 3-0 win over Riverdale (25-7, 25-13, 25-13) on Sept. 1.

On paper Fennimore defeated Cuba City, however, with an abundance of unforced errors, Cuba City beat Cuba City. "Fennimore just waited for us to make mistakes and took advantage," head coach Keri Lawson said. "We accumulated 12 serve receive errors, something we have had trouble with early this season. Couple that with five serve errors and do the math and you can see how we lost three straight."

Taylor Pickel led with 12 kills and four blocks while Mikayla Kaiser and Sam Steines each had seven. Kayla Marti had 22 assists and Miranda Richard added 27 digs and one service ace.

"Fennimore is a balanced and comfortable team," Lawson said. "We had leads in set one and three but the inconsistency and lack of ball handling prevented us from making many runs. We handled the net well and played scrappy but that will not win matches against better teams.

Cuba City bounced back from their loss to Fennimore with a home opener win over Riverdale. "Consistent control of the ball and less errors gave the team every chance to take advantage of a young, inexperienced Riverdale team," Lawson said.

The Cubans brought solid in system play and much-improved serve receive to the table and most points earned came from aggressive serving that Riverdale could not return. "We needed a win, regardless of the competition level," Lawson said.

"Hopefully this helps with our overall confidence, and I was pleased how everyone was able to contribute to the win."

Kaiser led the team with eight kills, while Pickel and Steines added seven. Marti had 18 assists and four service aces and Richard added 10 digs.

In previous action, the Cuba City volleyball team took fifth place in the Cougar-Tider Invitational on Aug. 26-27 at Edgerton High School. The Cubans started Friday's pool play with wins over Madison Memorial, 25-17, 25-21) and Edgerton Varsity Reserve, 25-14, 25-20. The Cubans then suffered a loss to Edgerton, 18-25, 19-25 and then topped Janesville Parker, 25-22, 25-23 before suffering a loss to Lodi, 24-26, 23-25. The Cubans then defeated Cambridge, 25-11, 25-15 and Brodhead, 26-24, 25-19 to go 5-2 for match play to advanced to the Gold Bracket on Saturday.

On Saturday, the Cubans defeated Sheboygan North, 25-15, 21-25, 15-8 before dropping the set to Big Foot, 12-25, 16-25 and Lodi, 18-25, 26-24, 13-15. Cuba City came back and defeated Janesville Parker, 25-20, 25-11 and then fell to Lancaster, 25-19, 4-25, 5-15.

Pickel led with 26 kills and nine blocks. Richard paced the Cubans defense with 36 digs. Brianna Morrissey led in assists with 53. Kaiser had seven service aces and Steines had nine blocks and was selected to the All-Tournament team.

Lawson said going into the weekend the team was somewhat anxious as there are many injuries and then some late illness. "We had to battle more than the competition, but that is many times the story this time of year," Lawson said. "The kids were exhausted but did a nice job staying in games. Finishing 10-4 on the day was probably better than we should have considering our status. The goal was to advance to the gold bracket, so we were content."

On Saturday the competition took a big step up. Big Foot, who won the tournament, was a very quick and athletic team, that Cuba City could not slow down.

"Playing teams of that caliber make us better," Lawson said. "The loss to Lodi was frustrating as we were up of them twice but couldn't close the door. The Lancaster match was night and day. We played fantastic in set one and then never got going in set two or three. Early season errors and lack of court cohesion puts team in those situations. We hope to tackle some of those issues as we progress through the season.

The Cubans now stand 1-1 in the SWAL and 8-6 overall. After hosting Iowa-Grant Tuesday night, the Cubans travel to Mineral Point on Tuesday, Sept. 13.