The league-leading Blackhawks scored the final two points of game one to win 25–23, then dominated game two, 25–15, to take a commanding lead against a tentative Platteville team. But the host Hillmen weren’t ready to concede the championship just yet.
With their backs to the wall, coach Yvette Updike’s Hillmen came alive in the third game and rallied all the way back, winning the final three games to pull out a dramatic a 23–25, 25–15, 25–16, 28–26, 15–13 victory and pull into a first-place tie with River Valley (29–4, 8–1 SWC).
Platteville (34–5, 8–1) can win a share of the conference title with a victory at Richland Center (12–12, 3–6 SWC) in Thursday’s regular season finale.
“In games one and two we played not to lose and we needed to play to win,” said Updike. “We were not blocking well at all in those first two games. The rest of the night we made some adjustments and started blocking better. Against a team like River Valley our primary defensive [blocks] needs to be more dominant.”
With coach Updike’s defensive adjustments and a renewed sense of urgency going into game three, the duo of junior Allison Woodworth and Ashley Budden began suffocating River Valley’s outside attacks at the net.
River Valley became obviously frustrated when hitting lanes that were available in the first two games were suddenly taken away.
The Blackhawks committed a combined 11 hitting errors and ball handling violations in the third game alone, and the Platteville offense came alive.
Faye Bailie had an early block in the third game, Woodworth and Budden combined on a block and Claire Tashner had a kill and an ace as Platteville raced out to a quick 11–5 lead.
Three straight Valley errors, a pair of Budden kills and a thunderous spike by Morgan Stecklein made it 17–8.
The Blackhawks fought back to 22–16, but a serving error and back-to-back hitting errors handed Platteville the game.
After pulling ahead 8–7 in the fourth game on another River Valley hitting error Platteville lead throughout game four, but never by more than four points.
A Budden block gave the Hillmen a 23–20 lead, but Valley battled back to tie it at 23–23, 24–24, 25–25 and 26–26 fighting off three Platteville game points.
Senior Jenna Jacobson tied the match at 26–26 on a kill, then appeared to give the Blackhawks a game point with a kill just inside the back line, but the attack was ruled out of bounds and Platteville took 27–26 lead.
Budden slammed home the ensuing point and the Hillmen had forced a fifth and decisive game.
In the fifth game Tashner, who was replaced briefly in the second game, came to life with a pair of kills as Platteville jumped out to an 8–4 lead.
Valley scored three straight to make it 8–7, but Budden riffled a kill down the line to make it 9–7, then had a tip kill to make it 10–9, and served up an ace to give Platteville a 12–10 advantage.
A Stecklein kill made it 13–11 and after the teams traded the next three points, Tashner slammed home game point setting off a wild celebration that including the Platteville student section storming the court.
“Claire was very timid and played very hesitant early in the match,” said Updike. “She needed to stop overthinking the game and just do what she does best. Once she did that she was the force the team needed.”
Stecklein finished the match with a team-high 12 kills and was a perfect 25-for-25 at the service line. Junior Maddie Carroll added eighth, while Budden and Tashner each had six. Budden also had three blocks, while Woodworth chipped in four blocks.
Junior setters Jenna Phillips and Rachel Emendorfer passed out 21 and 12 assists respectively. Senior libero Briette Updike led the back line defense with 20 digs.
“I believe the comeback says a lot about the team,” said coach Updike. “The girls showed great resiliency. It was a lot of fun.”
Platteville also swept Lancaster last Tuesday 25–18, 25–12, 25–12 prior to Thursday’s victory over River Valley.
After Thursday’s regular season finale at Richland Center, Platteville will open the WIAA Division 2 playoffs Tuesday at home against seventh-seeded Mount Horeb (12–16). With a win the second-seeded Hillmen will advance to host either No. 3 Madison Edgewood (24–14) or No. 6 Dodgeville (14–12) on Thursday. A potential rematch looms with River Valley in Saturday’s regional final. The top-seeded Blackhawks would host that match.
Platteville 3, Lancaster 0
(from Tuesday, Oct. 7 @ Lancaster)
Platteville 25 25 25
Lancaster 18 12 12
Platteville stat leaders
Kills: Maddie Carroll 6, Ashley Budden 5, Morgan Stecklein 5, Allison Woodworth 4. Blocks: Allison Woodworth 1, Faye Bailie 1, Claire Tashner 1. Assists: Rachel Emendorfer 11, Jenna Phillips 8. Aces: Budden 2, Emendorfer 2, Stecklein 2. Digs: Briette Updike 22.
Platteville 3, River Valley 2
(from Thursday, Oct. 9 @ Platteville)
River Valley 25 25 16 26 13
Platteville 23 15 25 28 15
Platteville stat leaders
Kills: Morgan Stecklein 12, Maddie Carroll 8, Ashley Budden 8, Claire Tashner 6. Blocks: Allison Woodworth 4, Budden 3, Faye Bailie 3. Assists: Jenna Philips 21, Rachel Emendorfer 12. Aces: Briette Updike 1, Ashley Budden 1. Digs: Briette Updike 20, Stecklein 6, Budden 5.