Platteville was poised to upset top-seeded Richland Center on its own court in last Thursday’s WIAA Division 2 volleyball sectional semifinal, but the Hillmen couldn’t maintain the momentum of a first-set win and the their early 1-0 lead.
Behind the surprise performance of junior Kylea Schultz, who split time between the Hornets’ varsity and varsity reserve this season, host Richland Center rallied to end Plattteville’s season with 20-25, 25-15, 25-13, 25-19 victory. And Schultz was the key in the Hornets’ 8-3 closing run in game four.
After Platteville pulled with a point at 16-17 on a Lawinger spike, Emily Schauf started the Hornets’ closing run with a back row kill. Then Schultz scored three straight points, two on spike kills through the Hillmen defense, on a tip over a Platteville block.
“There was no doubt that (Schultz) was the playmaker for them against us that night. She stepped up at the right time,” said Hilmen head coach Yvette Statz.
Schultz added another tip kill moments later to make it 22-18, then after another Lawinger kill, Mikayla Nigl and Kelly Lynch slammed back-to-back kills before Platteville hit match point out of bounds.
“We played so well in game one, but in games two and three we had troubles running our offense. Richland Center started blocking us quite well,” explained Statz.
“Our serve receive was not as good as it has been throughout the season and we also had 10 service errors.”
The win allowed the Hornets (31-7-1) to avenge an earlier loss to Platteville just 16 days earlier that allowed the Hillmen to earn a share of a three-way conference title, their first since 1994.
Richland Center advanced to Saturday’s sectional final, but had its season come to an end with a 25-16, 28-26, 25-21 loss to Walworth Big Foot two nights later.
Platteville season ended with a 31-10-2 mark, the best in Statz’s four years as the programs head coach.
“Though it is bitter sweet right now the team did an outstanding job this season,” added Statz. “They achieved so many things of their goals this season. They set out to be conference champs and got a piece of the conference title. They were regional champs. They won two Invites (Sparta and Iowa Grant), finished third at West Salem and Wisconsin Heights Invites, and fourth at the McFarland Invite.”
After Thursday’s first set, it appeared Platteville’s magical season would continue for at least one match, but Richland Center made the necessary adjustments and Shultz came alive.
Lawinger slammed seven kills in the opening game as Platteville scored a five-point victory, but Richland Center began sending two blockers her way the rest of the match.
“We talked in between the games about blocking,” Richland Center coach Laura Selgeby, whose team had four players with double-digit in kills. “(Lawinger’s) got a great vertical, so we had to wait.”
Selgeby’s team held Lawinger to just eight kills over the final three sets, while the Hornets’ piled up 11 blocks and 91 digs for the match. Lawinger finished the final match of her junior season with 15 kills and 19 digs.
Junior Mackenzie Bartels chipped in 12 kills, and senior Tess Stecklein added seven kills and a team-high 22 digs for the Hillmen. Senior Katie Lucas passed out 33 assists in the loss.
For the Hornets Schultz finished the match with 12 kills. Senior standout Kelly Lynch led the winners with 18 kills and 18 digs. Senior setter Kelsey Collins registered 22 assists, and senior libero Hannah Crary made 29 of her team’s 91 digs.
After losing game one Richland Center opened up big leads in both games two and three and never trailed in either set. A 7-2 game three lead turned into a 22-11 advantage and a 25-13 win.
Platteville led 6-3 early in game four, before Shultz and Lynch powered Center’s game four comeback.
“I believe Platteville was up against a number of elements going into this match,” added Statz. “I thought several “4 hits” were missed (by the referee) on their side” and our setter getting called on a couple of her sets really took our momentum out of us.”
WIAA Division 2 Sectional Semifinal
Richland Center 3, Platteville 1
(from Thursday, Oct. 27 @ Richland Center)
Platteville 25 15 13 19
Richland Center 20 25 25 25
Platteville stat leaders: Kills - Julia Lawinger 15, Mackenzie Bartels 12, Tess Stecklein 7. Blocks - Lawinger 2, Megan Moss 2. Assists - Katie Lucas 33. Aces - Lucas 2. Digs - Stecklein 22, Lawinger 19, Lucas 15. 100 percent serving - Briette Updike 7-for-7.