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Platteville volleyball ends season at state tournament
Shorthanded Hillmen fall to Lakeside Lutheran in D2 state semifinal to complete roller coaster week
Senior setter Presley Kerkenbush started in place of junior Emily Fields and had 11 assists in Saturday’s WIAA Division 2 state semifinal loss to Lakeside Lutheran. - photo by Nate Beier photo/

KAUKAUNA — For the second time in eight days the Platteville volleyball team ended its season with a straight-set loss.

You read that correctly.

Platteville’s season officially came to an end Saturday afternoon with a 25–10, 25–11, 25–10 loss to No. 3 Lakeside Lutheran in a WIAA Division 2 state semifinal match at Kaukauna High School.

Lakeside Lutheran (12–5) went on to lose the D2 state championship later Saturday night to No. 1 Luxemburg–Casco (15–0), 25–22, 25–21, 25–17.

Platteville’s season originally came to an “end” two Saturday’s ago with a 3–0 loss to #2-ranked Madison Edgewood in a WIAA Division 2 sectional final at Lake Mills on Oct. 31.

But last Tuesday, Edgewood was forced to withdraw from the D2 state tournament due to a positives COVID test on its team, and Platteville was called upon to replace the Crusaders in Saturday’s D2 state tournament.

The Hillmen had to deal with its own COVID issue later in the week, when senior outside hitter  Maddie Cooley, junior setter Emily Fields and sophomore outside hitter Hailey Weigel had a close contact with a positive test and were not allowed to play Saturday at state.

“The state experience was a lot of fun and something I know the girls will always remember,” said first-year coach Denise Berntgen, who led her team to a 13–3 record this year. “We turned in our uniforms and packed stuff away on Monday of last week. On Tuesday I got a call asking us to play at the state tournament. We announced it to the team via Zoom and there was so much energy and happiness. On Wednesday we got the call that three of our starters would have to be out for COVID exposure reasons. It was an emotional roller coaster to say the least.”

Platteville clearly missed Cooley, Fields and Weigel, despite the return of junior Catherine Tashner, who returned to the lineup last week after missing the previous three weeks with an injured ankle.

Lakeside scored the first four points of the match, then build a 15–1 lead in the opening set when senior Kylee Gnabsik served 10 straight points. Platteville cut the lead to 21–10, but got no closer.

The Hillmen struggled with hitting errors and poor backrow defense in the second set but hung around until a five-point Lutheran run gave the Warriors a 17–8 lead.

The Warriors opened up a 10–3 lead and never trailed in the third set. Payton Kuepers recorded 14 kills and 10 digs, while fellow senior Sydney Langille added eight kills and four blocks for the victors.

Senior Alayna Digman (5 kills) and Madison Devlin (4 kills, 7 digs) led the Hillmen in their final prep matches. Senior Presley Kerkenbush (11 assists) and junior Natalie Busch (8 assists) combined for 19 assists splitting time at setter in place of Fields.

The Hillmen managed just 19 kills and committed 16 hitting errors in 71 attack attempts for a .070 hitting percentage. Lakeside floored 40 kills with just five errors in 72 attempts for a .486 hitting percentage.

“This season has been filled with a lot of memories, ups and downs and most of all fun,” added Berntgen. “This group of girls made my job easy. I look forward to my returning athletes next year and am going to miss this senior group like crazy.”

WIAA Division 2 State Semifinal
Lakeside Lutheran 3, Platteville 0
(from Saturday, Nov. 7 @ Kaukauna)
Platteville 10 11 10
Lakeside Lutheran 25 25 25
Platteville stat leaders 
Kills: Alayna Digman 5, Madison Devlin 4, Brooke VonGlahn 3, Catherine Tashner 3. Blocks: none. Assists: Presley Kerkenbush 11, Natalie Busch 8. Aces: Paige Wagner 1, Busch 1. Digs: Devlin 7, Tashner 5, Busch 4, Wagner 4.