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September 22, 2019

Rhinelander’s Novalee Juel, left, and Brynn Brzycki put up a double block against Three Lakes’ Mollee Gruszynski during a volleyball match at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium Tuesday, Aug. 27. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
Rhinelander’s Novalee Juel, left, and Brynn Brzycki put up a double block against Three Lakes’ Mollee Gruszynski during a volleyball match at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium Tuesday, Aug. 27. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
8/29/2019 7:31:00 AM
Hodag volleyball stopped in home invite

Jeremy Mayo
Sports Editor

The Rhinelander High School volleyball team is looking for improvement in 2019, but the start of the season turned out to be a continuation of the last.

The Hodags lost all three matches, including a tight three-setter to Chequamegon, as they finished fourth in their home invitational Tuesday at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium.

Rhinelander beat Chequamegon in three sets last year at the home invite, but failed to win a match after that - a losing streak that now sits at 40 matches and extends more than a calendar year.

"This is only really our first competitive match of the season," coach Brianna Scheuermann said afterward. "It's a new group and we're doing a different lineup than in previous seasons. We're doing a 6-2 rather than a 5-1. There are two different setters, people are subbing in and out, plus the libero switch. There are a lot of pieces that go into our new lineup this year. The girls are still getting used to the rotation, who they're subbing in and out for and getting used to that role."

The match against Chequamegon was nearly a carbon copy of last year's when neither team won a set by more than two points. Trailing 20-13 in the first set, Chequamegon went on an 11-1 run that included only one earned point. The rest were Rhinelander errors as the Screaming Eagles took a 24-21 lead. The Hodags rallied back to retake the lead 25-24, but a couple of attacking errors followed by a tip kill by Chequamegon's Kristiana Peterson gave the Eagles a 27-25 win.

It was a similar story for Rhinelander in the second set. Up 19-13, the Hodags gave up an 8-0 run that put the Eagles up 21-19. Rhinelander rallied back this team to eventually tie the game at 23. A Chequamegon error gave the Hodags set point and senior Novalee Juel finished it with a block kill at the net.

Rhinelander was up 6-3 in the third set before Chequamegon rolled off a string of nine straight points. Down 14-11, the Hodags successfully staved off three match points thanks to Chequamegon errors to tie the set, but a kill by Chequamegon's Lainie Heizler followed by a lifting violation on the Hodags gave the Eagles the match.

"We would get into one rotation and get into a run, and then we would rotate because there was a point and then there was that one rotation where it was a slump for them," Scheuermann said. "They just couldn't get out of it and they'd get behind a couple of points and try to get back their groove. There just some rotations where they just didn't click or they hard a hard time passing or putting the ball away or serving. They had a hard time coming back from that."

Rhinelander came out of the gate slow against Three Lakes, missing four of its seven serves in the opening set. Side outs were hard to come by as the Hodags trailed 24-4 at one point before falling 25-6. The second set was much more competitive. Rhinelander had leads of 9-4 and 14-11 early in the set, but could not hang on. Tied at 18, Three Lakes scored seven of the final eight points to win 25-19.

"In the beginning, it was like they were still kind of new to it," Scheuermann said. "It was their first game, so they had those first-game jitters and were getting the errors out of the way. As the day continued and they played together they were getting better. They were getting more kills, getting comfortable. They were digging the ball. They were blocking and just having more fun. They improved today. That was good."

The Hodags closed against Ashland and continued the trend of stronger second sets, falling to the Oredockers 25-14, 25-21.

"Both games were really exciting, back and forth. We were competing against Ashland," Scheuermann said. "That was probably one of our better games of the night. They played together really well. They were communicating. They were hitting, getting some blocks. That was probably the best match of the whole tournament."

Scheuermann pointed to the play of a couple of returning players in different roles this year, with junior Hannah Worachek moving to libero and sophomore Ariel Pauer going from a situational middle blocker to an all-around player. Worachek finsihed with a team-high 33 digs while Pauer had 13 kills, nine digs and five service aces.

"Hannah, this is her first year player libero and she's kind of stepping into that role," Scheuermann said. "Against Ashland she had a lot of digs. She had 11 digs against Ashland. She was just eyeing up the hitters, anticipating where they were going to hit and she had a lot of success back there.

Olivia TerBeest had 12 assists and five service aces for Rhinelander. Aryssa Zasada chipped in 10 assists.

"Ariel, I think once she gets into the groove, will be a great all-around player," the coach said. "She's just finding her groove in the back row, and then in the front row, we're transitioning her from middle to outside hitter. She's still finding that but I think she'll have a lot of success when she gets that down. She had a lot of great kills as an outside hitter. She also hit in the middle. She was blocking and playing really good defense. I think just for her to take that role as a sophomore, she did really well."

The Hodags are in Wisconsin Dells today and tomorrow for a two-day invitational.

Jeremy Mayo may be reached at

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