VERONA — Every time Platteville pulled ahead and had a chance to take a game in last Thursday’s WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinal against top-seeded Madison Edgewood, Kaelyn Kessel put a pin in Platteville’s balloon.
The senior outside hitter strung together a pair of lengthy service runs that propelled the Crusaders to a straight sets victory, 25–15, 25–23, 25–21.
After battling nerves and indecision in decisive loss in the opening game, Platteville settled down and took command of the second game with a 22–17 lead. Three points from victory the Hillmen needed only a few sideouts to even the match.
But Kessel served seven straight points to swing the momentum and propel Edgewood (35–3) to a two games to none lead.
Again Platteville battled back behind gritty defensive play from Morgan Stecklein, Allison Woodworth and Briette Updike.
The Hillmen built a 15–10 cushion in game three only to have Kessel step to the service line once again. The Edgewood senior rattled off eight more service points to give the Crusaders an 18–15 lead they would never relinquish en route to the sweep.
Kessel finished the night with 11 kills, 12 digs and two aces.
“We played with them,” said Platteville head coach Yvette Updike. “The kids played tough and I’m proud of them. We thought we had them in game two. We thought we had them in game three. They were scrambling, but we couldn’t put them away.”
Updike admitted to sectional competition being a learning experience for her young team, that starts just two juniors and plays six sophomores.
“We came out hesitant and they were able to get some quick attacks against us,” said Updike. “Once we settled down we were able to defend those quicks and force them to change their offensive attack and go outside.”
Once settled in on defense Platteville turned to sophomores Morgan Stecklein and Maddie Carroll to supply the offense in game two.
Stecklein finished the night with a team-high nine kills and a block. Carroll added five kills.
“We were able to attack from the outside and hit down the line,” added Updike. “Maddie and Claire (Tashner) both played well on the outside and Allison (Woodworth) came up with some huge blocks and tips that disrupted their offense.
“But what we struggled with most was serve receives and serving. They had the two big service runs and we had some people miss serves that don’t usually miss serves. That hurt us.”
Edgewood went on to defeat Walworth Big Foot in four games Saturday night to win the McFarland sectional championship and earn a return trip to state.
The Crusaders were the Division 2 state runner-ups a year ago, losing to Kettle Morraine Lutheran in the championship match. Meanwhile, Platteville finished the season 31–9–1.
“We will use this loss as a learning experience,” said Updike. “We will have everyone back next year so that softens the blow a little bit. We came up short Thursday, but that only motivates us for next year. Edgewood was at state last year and had the advantage of knowing what to expect at the sectional level. Now we have that experience.”
WIAA Division 2 Sectional Semifinals
Edgewood 3, Platteville 0
(from Thursday, Oct. 31 @ Verona)
Platteville 15 23 21
Edgewood 25 25 25
Platteville stat leaders
Kills: Morgan Stecklein 9, Maddie Carroll 5, Claire Tashner 3. Blocks: Ashley Budden 1, Stecklein 1, Marissa Marino 1. Assists: Rachel Emendorfer 9, Jenna Phillips 7. Aces: Phillips 1, Emendorfer 1, Briette Updike 1. Digs: Updike 15, Phillips 4, Ashley Budden 4.