By Brian Kalish
Photo by Michelle Miklesh
September 13, 2018
Stevens Point– The Wisconsin Rapids Red Raiders came into their Wisconsin Valley Conference match against the SPASH Panthers on Thursday with a 1-9 record, but you wouldn’t have known it the way Rapids pushed SPASH around in the first two sets.
Ultimately, SPASH weathered another storm in Valley play and came away with a 3-0 win, but Rapids did its part to make the Panthers– and their fans– uncomfortable.
The Red Raiders’ volleyball program, under the tutelage of Valerie Tonn, continues to make strides. They just haven’t found a way to finish off opponents.
“Sometimes you have to get over what is to find out what could be,” said Tonn.
The Red Raiders’ defense gave SPASH all it could handle in the first set, as Kayla Huglen and Azalea Clendenning formed an impenetrable wall at the net.
“They’re big,” said SPASH coach Julie Johnson. “We talked about it before the game. We talked about our attackers being really aware of that. I think our setter was trying to mix it up. We never got our offense clicking.”
Rapids’ twin towers helped the Red Raiders jump out to an early lead and the set was tied 8-8 before SPASH pulled ahead.
The second set was even more worrisome for SPASH as Rapids jumped out to a 17-10 lead when Johnson called a timeout.
“Sometimes it’s no secret that we have trouble playing as a team,” said SPASH’s Gabby Johnson. “When we come in and coach gets into our face kind of and tells us that we need to pick it up because we’re a better team, that really helps us and the momentum really shifts our way and the winning takes care of itself.”
Whatever coach Johnson’s message was to the Panthers, Gabby Johnson took it to heart. She was a difference maker, exploiting soft spots in Rapids’ defense with a mix of brutal kills and lightly placed tips.
Johnson finished the match with eight kills, while Kayla Lass paced the team with 12.
“Gabby had a couple of good tips in there,” said Tonn. “If you have good tip placement, you’ve pretty much guaranteed yourself a kill.”
SPASH was in control for the entire third set, but Julie Johnson knows that the Panthers have to execute more consistently if they want to challenge for the conference title.
Meanwhile, Rapids proved that it can compete with one of the best teams in the conference.
“We need to get better, watch film and get better,” Tonn said.
Wisconsin Rapids 17
Wisconsin Rapids 21
Wisconsin Rapids 10
LEADING IN KILLS:
Kayla Lass with 12
Gabby Johnson with 8
Hannah Meyer with 8
LEADING IN BLOCKS:
LEADING IN DIGS:
Megan Miklesh with 17
Kayla Lass with 16
Ashley Schrank with 8
LEADING SERVICE ACES:
Kayla Lass with 4
Olivia Stroik with 3
LEADING IN ASSISTS:
Ashley Schrank with 26