Rhinelander’s Megan Haug receives a serve during Tuesday’s Great Northern Conference volleyball match against Northland Pines at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium. The illuminated “Home of the Hodags” sign at the scorer’s table served as a welcome sign for the Hodags, who played their first match in the remodeled gymnasium.
9/13/2012 7:30:00 AM Volleyball: Hodags win first match played in Rhinelander since October 2010
After 69 matches on the road and over 23 months of waiting, the Rhinelander High School volleyball team finally got to set foot on its home court once again.
The Hodags christened the volleyball configuration of the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium with a sweep of the Northland Pines Eagles Tuesday, 25-17, 25-19, 25-12.
Rhinelander could not practice or play in the Miazga Gym last year as it underwent a facelift. The Hodags were unphased last year, advancing to the second round of the WIAA playoffs for the first time since 1999. The Hodags won 19 of their first 22 on the road this year before coming home and getting win No. 20.
"We've been looking forward to it all year, watching the progress on the gym," said Hodag senior middle hitter Taylor Wissbroecker, who finished with seven kills, three aces and two blocks. "It felt good to run out to our warmup music and to hear everybody cheer."
"It was good," RHS volleyball coach Kathy Wawrzynowicz concurred. "It was nice to have the home crowd behind us. The girls were really excited, and obviously a little bit nervous, but hopefully they've got that out of their system now. It's nice not to have to travel and just be here."
Northland Pines, who ironically was the first school Rhinelander faced in boys' basketball at the Miazga Gym, was not willing to be a pushover in this housewarming party. The Eagles hung with Rhinelander in game one and led briefly in game two before Rhinelander reeled off an 8-0 run to take command. The Hodags put Northland Pines to bed with a big run at the start of game three.
Rhinelander jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first game, but Northland Pines called an early timeout and closed to within a point at 5-4. Rhinelander scored the next four points and the Eagles never got closer than four points behind the rest of the game.
Pines jumped out to early leads of 4-2 and 7-5 in game two, but Rhinelander reeled off a string of eight out of 10 points to pull ahead 13-9. Pines rallied to take a 14-13 lead, but Rhinelander ran off eight straight to take control of the game and eventually win by six.
"We made some really silly unforced errors that we don't usually make," Wawrzynowicz said of her team's performance in the first two games. "For whatever reason we weren't getting on and off the net quickly, which is what we should be doing. I don't expect anyone to come in here, lay down and die for us, of course. It's good that they know that if we're not playing at the top of our game, we're going to get beat."
Rhinelander's run in game two began with a Northland Pines service error. Katie Berrell had two kills and Megan Haug had a service ace on the next three points to give the Hodags the momentum. Katie Berrell finished with 13 kills and five digs. Megan Haug had six digs and was 14 of 15 serving with three aces.
That momentum carried into game three, where the Hodags built a 16-4 lead before gradually sitting their starters.
"They did their job and what I asked them to do. It was a good chance to get everyone in to play," Wawrzynowicz said. "I was pleased with the job Kayla Wenos did. She did a good job swinging at the ball."
Wenos was one of the players that came on late in game three to close out the match.
Rhinelander's last home match came against Mosinee Oct. 5, 2010. A few of the players on this year's team took part in that match and were eager to play at home once again.
"Lots of extra nerves, because it is our first home match in such a long time and we have a good record," Wissbroecker said. "We haven't had that in a long time We want to keep it going. We don't want any let downs."
Senior setter Lindsay Berrell, who had 30 assists Tuesday, said the new gym did not feel much different to her than the old gym.
"It's still the home gym. The home fans are still supportive and there are a lot of people here for us," she said.
Rhinelander will not have to wait nearly as long for its next home match. The Hodags host the first leg of the Great Northern Conference tournament Saturday. The Hodags will face their three top contenders for the GNC crown - Mosinee, Antigo and Tomahawk - in consecutive matches.
"I hope people come back to watch us Saturday against better competition," Berrell said.
"We have to play better than we did tonight. We have to be much more aggressive. It will be tough on Saturday," Wawrzynowicz added.
All seven GNC teams will be in action Saturday in Rhinelander. Play will be conducted on three separate courts inside the gym. The first round will begin at 10 a.m.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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