Shawano falls to Xavier

Hawks enter conference tournament as 2nd seed
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Leader photo by Morgan Rode Shawano’s Rachel Reed reaches to hit the ball against Xavier while teammates Bayleigh Laabs (4) and Katelyn Wilber (6) look on Tuesday in Shawano.

A Bay Conference volleyball showdown between Shawano and Xavier lived up to the hype in front of a packed gym at Shawano Community High School on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, the hosts came out on the wrong end of an entertaining 25-12, 19-25, 25-20, 25-23 match. Xavier improved to 7-0 in conference matches while Shawano slipped to 6-1.

Despite the tough loss, Shawano’s confidence was not erased. In fact, the setback could work as a motivator for the final weeks of the season.

“We won’t let one game define us as a team,” senior Tori DePerry said. “We know what we are capable of and we know what we can do. We just have to learn from this and go hard in the conference tournament and try to get the conference title back-to-back (years).”

“We know we can beat them, we know we are a better team than them,” senior Julia Klement said. “We know what we have to work on now and I think just knowing that and working on that in practice will help us out.”

The victory earned sixth-ranked Xavier (30-11, 7-0 Bay) the top seed for the Bay Conference Tournament, which will be played at Green Bay East High School on Saturday. Shawano, which is an honorable mention in the Division 2 Wisconsin Volleyball Coaches Association poll, will enter the tournament with a No. 2 seed.

After the teams split the first eight points of the first set, Xavier rattled off the next seven points and never looked back. Strong serving helped the visitors work their lead up to 15 before Shawano (28-6, 6-1 Bay) started to settle in and play their brand of volleyball.

“I think it is fair to say that a match like that is one of the first for a lot of these players,” Shawano coach Breanna Young said. “We had to get our game under control — in that first set, we clearly did not come out playing our game. We did a lot better job as the match carried on but we just started too slow tonight.”

Shawano kept things rolling to start the second set and was able to take a four-point advantage at 11-7. Xavier rallied to tie things at 12 before the hosts pulled ahead.

Klement, DePerry and junior Abi Vomastic provided kills down the stretch for the hosts, firing up the crowd a bit more with each thunderous attack.

Klement ended up leading Shawano with 11 attack kills while junior Katelyn Wilber and Vomastic each had eight. DePerry recorded six attack kills. Vomastic totaled three block kills while senior Bayleigh Laabs had 25 assists.

Shawano pulled ahead early in the third set to force a Xavier timeout. The visitors rallied to tie the set at nine before taking 10 of the next 14 points to seize control.

The hosts kept battling to keep the pressure on, but Xavier finished the set off after calling a timeout.

“Their serving is really strong, that’s something (serve receiving) we have always struggled with,” Klement said. “When they serve strong, it’s hard for us to get the ball in the system. Their attacking is also really strong too.”

Xavier looked to be on its way to an easy win in set four after taking seven-point leads at two separate points before stretching the advantage out to nine, but Shawano kept at it.

Trailing 21-12, the hosts took five straight points before Xavier won the next two to go up 23-17. Shawano responded by winning six straight points with Vomastic serving to tie up the match.

Xavier won the final two points of the set after long volleys to finish off their victory.

“Their chemistry is just as good as ours on the court and I think it’s a good matchup when we play them,” DePerry said. “Their also similar to us because of their tall lineup but they just played a bit better than us tonight, that’s it.”

The loss was Shawano’s first since Sept. 15 against Abbotsford at the Clintonville Invite. The Hawks had lost just one set since then prior to Tuesday’s match.

Following the completion of the battle, Shawano honored its three seniors, DePerry, Klement and Laabs.

“They’ve led this team to a lot of great things and shown great leadership,” Young said. “I was a varsity assistant when they were freshmen and took them on (as a head coach) as sophomores, so just watching them continue to grow and become the players and leaders they are today has been really special.”