Rhinelander’s Cami Buchmann attempts to put up a block against Medford’s Megan Graff during a Great Northern Conference volleyball match at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium Tuesday, Oct. 10. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
10/12/2017 7:31:00 AM Hodag spikers fall flat in home finale
Things were going well on Tuesday as the Rhinelander High School volleyball team looked to close out an undefeated regular season at home in hopes of getting a home WIAA playoff game.
The Hodags and Medford were tied at a set apiece and Rhinelander held a 20-12 lead in the third. Then the wheels fell off.
Rhinelander gave up a 13-2 run to end the third and was never really competitive in the fourth as it fell to the Raiders 3-1 to finish fifth in the Great Northern Conference standings and likely begin the WIAA playoffs on the road.
The Hodags (14-17, 5-7 Great Northern) found out their tournament fate Wednesday night in a regional seeding meeting that concluded after deadline but, in a seven-team bracket that includes every GNC school except Mosinee and adds Wisconsin Valley Conference-champ Merrill, the writing was on the wall that Rhinelander will spend next Tuesday on the road, likely at Northland Pines or Antigo, in a regional quarterfinal.
"It's disappointing that we finished the way we did," coach Kathy Wawrzynowicz said. "We were hoping for a home playoff game ... I know they wanted and they were trying very hard to get it. Maybe that was part of it. Maybe they just put too much pressure on them(selves). I don't know."
A ball that fell between seniors Cami Buchmann and Tori Roberts with the Hodags up eight in the third began the downward slide. Medford's Kamry Albrecht followed with back-to-back kills, and an attacking error by Buchmann got Medford within 20-16. Later, a pair of aces by McKenzie Waldhart and a Lainey Brunner kill trimmed the lead to one. The Hodags got a side out to go ahead 22-20, but followed that with a string of five straight attacking errors by Molly Wagler and Ally Seefeldt to end the set.
On the night, the Hodags had 48 kills and 35 attacking errors as the team attacked at only 9.1 percent on the night. The team came in attacking closer to 14 percent in conference play.
"I called a timeout and I said, 'We're killing ourselves,'" Wawrzynowicz said. "We made attacking errors. Everybody was making attacking errors."
The air appeared to be let out of Rhinelander's sails following the third-set loss. Medford scored 15 of the final 21 points in the fourth to take the final set 25-15 and close out the match.
"Give them credit," Wawrzynowicz said. "They hung in there. They didn't fold and they just kept fighting, played off of our errors and that's what won it for them.
"Medford's not second place in the standings for nothing. They're a good team. They kept the ball going. They picked up stuff and finally started swinging down the line a little bit and we had a hard time stopping that."
Neither team led by more than three points in the first set. The Hodags staved off a pair of game points with Hope Wissbroecker kills to close to within 24-23, but key digs by Waldhart and Bailey Klabunde kept game point alive and Wissbroecker eventually fired wide right to end the set - one of 14 attacking errors on the night for Rhinelander's top offensive weapon.
Wissbroecker made amends by owning the start of the second set. During one stretch, she was responsible for nine straight Rhinelander points as the Hodags opened up a 12-4 lead. She closed out the set in style, too, with a pair of kills and an ace to give Rhinelander a 25-17 win.
It appeared that Rhinelander was on its way to a similar win in the third when everything turned in an instant.
"I don't know if it's confidence. It's just what we have," Wawrzynowicz said. "When we need go-to point, when we need a kill, sometimes we have a hard time finding that."
Wissbroecker finished with 30 kills, 27 digs and three blocks. Buchmann was next on the team with seven kills. Makayla Kuester had 25 assists and four service aces, Seefeldt had 21 assists and Stephanie Kuester recorded 38 digs.
Depending on how the seeding meeting shakes out, the Hodags could face a potential playoff preview Saturday at the Wausau West Invite. Northland Pines is in the field for the six-team round robin competition. The teams split a pair of five-set matches during the GNC season and Wawrzynowicz hinted she may not show her entire hand Saturday if in fact the two teams are set to meet again next Tuesday.
"Maybe we will, but it all depends on how things shake out at the seeding meeting. Pines is there, but there are a lot of other good teams there, too," she said.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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