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Hillmen push No. 6 Hornets to five sets
First-place Richland Center rallies for the win
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Junior setter Britney Baker makes a pass to teammate Rachel Bailie (8) during Plattevilles five-set loss to Richland Center last Tuesday. Baker had 26 assists and two aces in the match.

PLATTEVILLE — It’s been a roller coaster year for the Platteville volleyball team and last week was no different. The Hillmen took a 2–1 lead against sixth-ranked and Southwest Wisconsin Conference-leading Richland Center only to watch the Hornets battle back for a 23–25, 25–21, 18–25, 25–18, 15–9 victory on Platteville’s home court.

“It was a frustrating loss, but it is what it is,” said Platteville head coach Lindsay Nihles. “We can’t make 33 hitting errors and expect to beat a team like Richland Center. Now we know what to expect next time and hope to make the changes we need to finish a match. I am proud of the girls for fighting and scrapping. That is the most aggressive I have seen my team all season so it shows we have the ability, we know we can do it.”

Platteville missed a golden opportunity to get back in the race for the conference title, as River Valley (18–10, 4–1 SWC) fell to Dodgeville in five games Tuesday night. The Blackhawks, who have not yet played Richland Center due to a postponement, swept Platteville a week earlier on Sept. 13.

The Hillmen (9–15, 4–2) remain two games back of the league-leading Hornets after an easy 25–9, 25–15, 25–12 victory at Lancaster on Thursday night.

“I think the conference race is still wide open if we play our game,” said Nihles. “River Valley lost to Dodgeville so that was a bit of a shake-up. If we can get the advantage over River Valley and Richland Center next time we see them I don’t see why we can’t finish one or two. The girls were disappointed after the Richland Center loss, but I think it lit a fire in them. They know they are not completely out of it.”

Platteville has struggled closing out leads on multiple ocassions this season, but after yet another rotation change, appeared to figure it out Tuesday against Richland Center.

Nihles abandoned her preferred 6–2 rotation an returned to a 5–1 alignment she used earlier this year with junior Britney Baker setting all the way around. Nihles also moved junior Skye Digman back to middle hitter full time and inserted freshman outside Becca Hoyer into the rotation and all three responded.

“The girls are adjusting well to new lineup,” added Nihles. “They knew we were working to figure out which line ups would be most beneficial to the team.”

Platteville jumped out to a 9–1 lead in the opening set on a seven-point service run by senior KD Hoyer and led 15–5 after back-to-back aces by senior outside hitter Audrey Sonsalla.

A string of Platteville hitting errors trimmed their once sizable lead to a single point at 24–23. But the Hillmen held on for the two-point lead when the younger Hoyer  floored a kill on set point. She finished with seven kills in 43 attempts.

Set two went back-and-forth throughout before the Hornets got a bit of breathing room at 21–18 on back-to-back kills by sophomore Roslynn Johnson. A Platteville service error and a kill by senior Kathleen Peckham gave the visitors the set.
Platteville got off to another good start in set three as junior middle hitter Skye Digman had kills on the first three points of the game. Baker’s five-point service run pushed the lead to 14–5.

Again the Hornets battled back. They got as close at 15–13 on a net error by Platteville, but the Hillmen held tough. Digman keyed an 8–2 run with five kills to make it 23–15. Junior Rachel Bailie closed out the set with a kill.

Digman finished with a match-high 22 kills and a season-high five blocks. Baker passed out 41 assists and served up three aces. Junior libero Emilie Busch made 16 digs to lead a gritty defensive effort despite Platteville’s abysmal 0.062 hitting percentage in the loss.

Platteville again got the jump in the fourth set, starting with a 6–0 lead on Izzy Carroll’s serve. Richland Center turned the tied with a 13–3 run to take a 13–9 lead, and the Hillmen couldn’t respond. Platteville made nine errors the rest of the set, 14 total in the game.

The teams traded points early in the decisive fifth set, but a 3–0 Richland Center burst gave the Hornets a lead they would never relinquish at 6–3.

Platteville hung around that three-point deficit at 9–6, 10–7, 11–8, but Center’s best player came alive in the final stages of the match.

Junior Madison Rizner, who was held in check most of the night put down a kill to make it 12–8, then after a slammed an errant Hillmen overpass to make it 13–9. She crushed another Platteville overhit on match point to close out the comeback victory.

Rizner finished with just 13 kills on 48 attempts and was held to a .188 hitting percentage. Platteville’s block stuffed Rizner on occasion and got a touch on many of her attacks.

Digman served up nine aces and had a match-high 12 kills to lead Platteville in Thursday’s easy sweep of struggling Lancaster (4–18, 0–6).

The Hillmen will return to action Thursday at home against Prairie du Chien (4–16, 1–4) before traveling to the Madison Edgewood Tournament on Saturday.

Richland Center 3, Platteville 2
(from Tuesday, Sept. 20 @ Platteville)

Richland Center    23    25    18    25   15
Platteville              25    21    25    18    9
Platteville stat leaders
Kills: Skye Digman 22, Izzy Carroll 8, Becca Hoyer 7. Blocks: Digman 5, Brittney Baker 3, Carroll 2. Assists: Britney Baker 41. Aces: Carroll 4, Audrey Sonsalla 3, Baker 3, KD Hoyer 2. Digs: Emilie Busch 16, Digman 11, Rachel Bailie 11, Carroll 10.

Platteville 3, Lancaster 0
(from Thursday, Sept. 15 @ Dodgeville)

Platteville          25    25    25
Lancaster            9    15    12
Platteville stat leaders
Kills: Skye Digman 12, Becca Hoyer 9, Audrey Sonsalla 8, Izzy Carroll 6. Blocks: Digman 2, Britney Baker 2. Assists: Britney Baker 26. Aces: Digman 9, KD Hoyer 2, Baker 2. Digs: Emilie Busch 8, Sonsalla 4, Bailie 4.