Witt-Birn volleyball team edges Bonduel in epic regional title

Chargers win in 5 sets
Morgan Rode
Sports Editor

The Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School volleyball team edged Bonduel in five sets to claim a thrilling Division 3 regional title on Oct. 22 in Wittenberg.

After the Chargers won a tight, five-set match over Bonduel in mid-September, the rematch figured to be a good one. It was all that and more, with Witt-Birn again prevailing — this time by scores of 19-25, 26-24, 25-14, 13-25, 15-10.

Fittingly, the deciding fifth set was a back-and-forth battle between the Central Wisconsin Conference-East Division foes.

Bonduel scored first on an Audrey Weier kill, but Witt-Birn responded by winning the next five points to force a Bonduel timeout. Reese Rogowski tied the set with a kill before Payton Foster served a couple aces. Another Rogowski kill followed by a Bonduel attack error led to the timeout.

It was then the Bears’ turn to go on a run, scoring five straight to go up 6-5. A block got things started before Hailee Thompson scored for the Bears. Some strong serves from Lila Pleshek helped the Bears finish off the run.

Witt-Birn responded with a 6-0 run to grab a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Rogowski had kills for the first four points before back-to-back aces from Kiara Deruchowski made it an 11-6 lead for the hosts.

Bonduel got another block to stop the run, but an error followed by a kill from Witt-Birn’s London Metropulos moved the Chargers to two points from victory.

The Bears continued to fight, with a Weier kill followed by another block getting the visitors back within four. Melaina Granquist snuck a tip point in to get Witt-Birn within a point of victory, only to have Bonduel’s Josie Anvelink deliver a kill to keep the match going.

Foster finally ended the match with another well-placed tip.

“It felt great,” said Rogowski of winning a regional title over a conference opponent. “We were kind of nervous going in because we know that they can keep up with us and knew it was going to be a competitive match. It feels great to know that we pulled out on top.”

“It feels awesome,” added Foster. “Very happy and proud of our team.”

Witt-Birn will get a crack at another conference team in the sectional semifinal. The Chargers will host Weyauwega-Fremont on Oct. 27, with the winner advancing to the sectional final on Oct. 29.

The first two sets of the regional final match were about as tight as can be.

Bonduel pulled ahead early in set one behind a couple aces from Macy Niles. Metropulos delivered several kills to help Witt-Birn settle in and eventually grab the lead.

The teams traded blows during the middle of the set and were tied at 14 before Bonduel seized control with a 5-1 run. Anvelink had a couple kills later on to help the Bears win the opening set.

“It’s really fun,” said Niles of playing inside an energized gym with so much at stake. “I mean, it’s tough, but you got to be mentally tough. It feels really good to have the fans have our back and everything; it just makes us play better.”

Witt-Birn had the lead early on in set two, but a Bonduel 5-0 run forced a timeout from the hosts. Weier and Nakiyah Henning delivered kills on the run.

As she did in set one, Metropulos got the Chargers going with a kill followed by an ace. The hosts were still down 12-9 before a Rogowski kill flipped the momentum. Rogowski then was serving as the Chargers wrapped up a 5-0 run.

Bonduel quickly tied things back up after a Abby Stoltenow kill and Niles ace. The teams remained within two points of each other the rest of the set.

Witt-Birn had a chance to win the set but an attack went out of bounds, tying the set at 24. Metropulos then delivered the go-ahead kill after a long volley between the teams before a Bonduel attack error capped the set.

“We had to take a break and kind of reset and think about what we were messing up on and find the open spots on the floor and just put the ball there,” said Foster on how the team turned things around.

Sets three and four were a much different story than the opening two sets, with each team taking one in lopsided fashion.

Witt-Birn trailed 6-4 in set three before using a 13-0 run to take complete control. Rogowski got the run started with several kills before strong serving and several aces from Foster capped it.

“Our serve receive wasn’t the greatest in the one set where they ended up pulling away a few points more,” said Thompson. “I think if we would have been right there all the games, we could have maybe won in four sets instead of taking them to five.”

Bonduel raced out to an 8-0 lead in set four as Niles served. Stoltenow came through with a couple key kills during the run, and then Weier had several kills later on to help the Bears tie the match at two apiece.

In the end though, the CWC-East champs found a way to come out on top, like they did in the team’s matchup earlier this season and like the Chargers have done against most teams on the schedule this fall.

More photos from the regional title can be found on the NEW Media Inc. Sports Facebook page at www.facebook.com/NewMediaIncSports.