Shawano makes quick work of East

Hawks will battle Xavier for Bay title Tuesday

Greg Bates Leader Correspondent

It could have easily been a trap game for the Shawano volleyball team.

With a perfect 5-0 record in the Bay Conference and a date with fellow unbeaten Xavier just five days away, Shawano traveling to 4-1 Green Bay East on Thursday night could have been overlooked by the Hawks.

It was pretty evident early on that wasn’t going to be the case. Shawano used runs of 15-0 and 14-0 in the first two sets and cruised to a 25-9, 25-8, 25-12 sweep.

“We just know not to underestimate a team because, when we play not-as-good teams, we tend to stoop down to their level, which we can’t do,” senior outside hitter Julia Klement said. “We just come out with a hard start and that’s what really helps us.”

The dominating performance took Shawano coach Breanna Young by surprise.

“I was not expecting that,” Young said. “I’ll be honest, I was not.

“We played to our level tonight. We didn’t ever sink down. East obviously has a great program, they were 4-1 going into tonight, and we just came out knowing we had a lot of work to do before Tuesday and stayed hot all night,” she added.

Shawano (28-6, 6-0 Bay) seemingly could do no wrong. Everything was clicking.

“We were a little nervous coming into it because we weren’t sure how good they were going to be,” Klement said. “But we really played our game and stayed on our level and played well.”

Was this a completely flawless match and the team’s best this year?

“As a coach, I’m never completely satisfied,” Young said. “I think there’s always areas for us to improve on. However, tonight I think we played our best match of the season.”

Junior Katelyn Wilber pinpointed the play of senior setter Bayleigh Laabs for pacing the offense. Laabs totaled 28 assists on the night.

“She takes control of the court and she helps us, she encourages us,” Wilber said. “She’s a real big motivation for us, and I think she’s a really big part of our team and we wouldn’t be the same without her.”

Shawano, which received votes in Division 2 in the latest Wisconsin Volleyball Coaches Association poll, was fueled all night by extremely long runs in the opening two sets. Ironically, it was Wilber who was serving through those runs. She finished with 37 of her team’s 75 serves on the night and registered five aces.

“It’s funny because last night she hurt her thumb, so last night she couldn’t serve,” Young said. “In practice, she wasn’t hitting and she wasn’t serving and tonight she just comes back a whole new woman, I guess. She’s been a consistent six-rotation player for us, but for her to serve like that I think it really helps our team morale.”

In the opening set, Shawano was up 7-6 when it took control. Klement tallied three kills as the Hawks ran off 15 straight points, making it 22-6, with Wilber at the serving line.

“Point after point we just got the momentum and realized, ‘We’ve got this,’” Klement said. “Keep pushing, don’t let up, keep the lead. That was good for us.”

Green Bay East (11-12, 4-2 Bay) led 4-2 early in the second. But with the set tied at seven, Wilber helped Shawano go on a 14-0 run. A pair of Rachel Reed aces late sealed the set. Shawano scored 18 of the set’s final 19 points.

The Red Devils took their biggest lead of the night, 7-4, early in the third set. However, that advantage dwindled quickly.

“We’re really practicing mental toughness because that’s a big part of the game,” Klement said. “We work on that, not getting down after one point. That really helps because you can’t get down on yourself after one thing, you’ve got to keep going and do what’s best for the team.”

Wilber got on another one of her hot streaks at the serving line and rattled off eight points to put Shawano up 12-7. Klement tallied three kills as Shawano pulled away.

Klement had a big night with a match-high 10 kills. Senior Tori DePerry added five.

“She was swinging awesome,” said Young about Klement. “The thing is we know that’s what she’s capable of, so for her to finally bring it out and show the rest to everyone is awesome.”

The victory for Shawano sets up the all-important conference showdown with Xavier on Tuesday. It will fittingly be senior night for Shawano as it will honor Klement, Laabs and DePerry. It’s the senior class that is hoping to bring a long-awaited conference championship to Shawano.

Young has her team focused on the prize.

“Xavier’s always in the back of our mind but really working on that ‘in the moment, play by play mentality,’” Young said. “We can’t worry about what happened the pass before or what’s going to happen next, we just have to go one point at a time. I think they’re doing a really good job of that right now.”