TOMAHAWK - The trend of improved matches continued for the RHS volleyball team on Tuesday.
The Hodags took a set from Tomahawk, and were more competitive with the Hatchets than in their first meeting of the season, before falling 3-1 at Hatchet Fieldhouse.
Tomahawk won the match 25-17, 21-25, 25-17, 25-15. That was an improvement for the Hodags, who were swept by the Hatchets 25-15, 25-9, 25-15 when the two teams met Sept. 5 at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium.
"We found their weak spot in the middle, so we just kept telling them (to hit to) short middle," coach Brianna Scheuermann said. "We got them out of system a couple of times and had a few aces. They definitely played hard."
Rhinelander led most of the way in the second set, but back-to-back attacking errors by the Hodags tied the set at 20 and caused Scheuermann to burn a timeout. Rhinelander responded with the next four points, including a pair of service aces from Hannah Worachek. Worachek put the serve for game point into the net, but Ariel Pauer got a kill to the back right corner on the next point as the Hodags took their fifth set of the season in conference play.
Rhinelander won the set despite committing six service errors. The first five came early in the set. The Hatchets also had trouble on the serve in the second with four errors.
"They just kind of kept pressing through," Scheuermann said. "They challenged their defense and kept hitting the holes. They were communicating, getting the ball up and working together. I think that's what allowed them to take it."
Rhinelander was unable to carry the momentum and slow starts in the third and fourth sets ultimately cost the Hodags. The Hatchets raced out to a 7-1 start in the third set and led 13-3 at one point. The Hodags got back to within 14-9, but the momentum stopped there and Tomahawk eventually went on to an eight-point win.
Tomahawk used a 9-2 run to take an 11-4 lead early in the third set. Rhinelander was able to get back to within four at 12-8 following back-to-back aces by Worachek, but never got any closer.
"Once they won that second set, they kind of calmed down," Scheuermann said. "They weren't as aggressive and there was some miscommunication in the back row, and some service errors. They weren't being as aggressive as they should have been."
The first set went back-and-forth early on, with Rhinelander trailing 14-12 at one point, but the Hatchets went on a 9-1 run for there to go up 23-13 and eventually took the set by eight. Tomahawk's Mady Hanse, who entered the night third in the Great Northern Conference in kills, had seven kills in the opening set and 17 kills overall.
"We had to change up our defense and told them to give line because it's a harder shot to take," Scheuermann said, noting that Hanse was able to hit over the Hodags' block. "Then we had our back row adjust to it. I think in the second and third, even the fourth set, we got more touches on their hits, which helped us on the defensive end."
Cynthia Beavers led Rhinelander with nine kills. Ava Lamers had seven kills. Pauer chipped in four kills while Emily Jorgensen and Kahlie Arneson had three kills each.
"Ava did a really nice job on the net tonight," Scheuermann said of her freshman middle blocker. "She had tons of touches against Hanse and a couple of blocks that went back on their side. She really contributed and used that middle hole. She had a few kills, tipping it. She really did a good job tonight."
Aryssa Zasada was back in the lineup for the Hodags on Tuesday and played the entire night at setter, tallying 20 assists.
"She really contributed on the defensive end, just getting the ball up and getting the players opportunities to get the ball down on the other side," Scheuermann noted.
Worachek had nine digs and six service aces on the night. Arneson had three aces, Beavers chipped in seven digs and Pauer added a pair of blocks.
Though the WIAA had not released official pairings as of deadline for this edition, Scheuermann said the Hodags drew Mauston in a seeding meeting held Sunday and will begin the WIAA tournament with a long road trip next Tuesday.
"We have to travel three hours to go play Mauston," she said. "Hopefully this week we can work on serving, passing, getting aggressive and using those set to just knock them down ... Hopefully we'll keep pushing ourselves to get better and then travel down to Mauston and give them a good fight."
Rhinelander (1-27, 0-12 Great Northern) finishes the regular season Saturday in a six-team invite at Wausau West.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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