After 46 matches, and a little more than one calendar year, the Rhinelander High School volleyball team is back in the win column.
The victory occurred against Bruce in the last game of the Friendship Tournament in Wisconsin Dells. The Hodags went 1-6 overall in the tournament which concluded Friday, taking 23rd in a 24-team field.
Rhinelander, which had a couple of near misses earlier in the tournament, was able to defeat Bruce in extra points to avoid a third set, taking the match 25-16, 31-29.
"It was really good and I think having the girls win in two sets - even though the last one was kind of close for comfort - it kind of picked the girls' spirits up that they can actually do it," coach Brianna Scheuermann said. "They have all the skills. They have the ability. They have everything they need to win the games. They've got to go out there and get it. They definitely they did it that last set."
Rhinelander went 0-4 in the first day of the tournament. The Hodags lost 25-11, 25-2 in the first match to La Crosse Aquinas and then pushed Sevastopol to three sets before losing 25-11, 26-28, 16-14.
"Aquinas, they have a stellar team," Scheuermann said. "One of their ace hitters, she can put the ball down on the 10-foot line. They just were a really good team ... It didn't help it was our first game to start off the tournament. The girls were just kind of slow, just woke up.
"I think after playing them, and going into our game against Sevastopol, they definitely picked up the pace and they played against them pretty well. We took the second set against them and the third set (was close). They were battling all the way."
Sevastopol eventually finished eighth in the tournament, knocking off the Hodags' Great Northern Conference rival Antigo along the way.
"We just told (the team) if you guys play the way you played against Sevastopol, you could do pretty well in the conference," Scheuermann said.
Rhinelander concluded Thursday's play with a 25-11, 25-17 loss to Wittenberg-Birnamwood and a 25-9, 25-11 loss to Peshtigo to end up in the bronze tier for Friday's placement matches.
Friday the Hodags started with a 25-18, 25-22 loss to Clintonville and then fell to Green Bay Southwest in three sets 17-25, 25-15, 15-8.
Sophomore Ariel Pauer led the way for Rhinelander, with 28 kills over the seven matches. Emily Jorgensen had 22 kills and Brynn Brzycki chipped in 17 kills. Libero Hannah Worachek had 48 digs during the tournament. Pauer and Kahlie Arneson chipped in eight blocks each.
Scheuermann said her team learned a lot playing 10 matches in four days to start the season.
"We could see what was really working, what rotations," she said. "The 6-2 we were going with, it's really beneficial for our team because we get multiple people on the court. We get the height. We get the people in the back row that can pass the ball. It's getting the girls to finish the games and not get down when they make little mistakes. We also found things we need to work on. We need to work on transitioning a little bit faster, and passing the ball a little bit better so our setters have a chance to get the ball out to our hitters to get a good hit off of it."
The Hodags (1-9, 0-0 Great Northern) will open conference play Thursday against Tomahawk at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium. The team gets two valuable days of practice prior to the match, considering the team had only one day to practice last week.
"We didn't have a lot of chance to nit pick on little things," Scheuermann said. "We learned what worked and we're going to fix the things that weren't working for us over the next two days (of practice) so that, on Thursday against Tomahawk, hopefully we'll have those things down."
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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