By Paul Lecker
BOWLER – The Marshfield Columbus Catholic volleyball team came into its WIAA Division 4 sectional final match against Laona/Wabeno short-handed, but the Dons were not about to make excuses.
The Dons fought hard and played well, but the hitting of Elizabeth Krawze and the collective defense of Laona/Wabeno was just too much to handle as the Rebels won 3-1 to claim their first-ever trip to the WIAA State Girls Volleyball Tournament.
Laona/Wabeno won 25-20, 25-12, 17-25, 25-16, to advance to the state tournament, which will be held Nov. 4-6 at Resch Center in Green Bay. The Rebels will play a Division 4 state semifinal at 9 a.m. Friday.
Columbus Catholic came into the match prepared to play without its two-time Cloverbelt Conference East Division and all-state player Dorci Walker after she injured her right ankle during the Dons’ sectional semifinal win over Edgar on Thursday.
Walker took part in some of the pre-match warm-ups, but started the match on the bench as her team went on without her.
“We had just the one practice without her and we were planning on not having her,” Columbus Catholic coach Kat Egle said. “She got to go out there, but she was playing on one foot. Not having her, the girls really wanted to win it for her and to have her play next week. I’m proud of how they played. We’re a young team, we took one game from them and they played really hard.”
Without their top hitter, the Dons pushed through, but had a hard time stopping Krawze, who had nine kills in the first set alone as the Rebels never trailed and pulled away to a 25-20 win.
It was more of the same in the second set as Columbus managed just four successful kills early and fell behind 17-8.
Walker, who was warming up on the sidelines at different points throughout the first two sets, decided to give it a go, and had a pair of tip kills, but was noticeably struggling to push off on her injured ankle.
A kill by Jaclyn St. Peter and two Dons’ errors finished off a 25-12 win over Laona/Wabeno in set No. 2.
The Dons weren’t about to quit and dominated the third set.
Jenna Kibbel had a pair of kills and Courtney Sommer added another as Columbus Catholic cruised out to a 7-2 lead and never trailed in the set.
Autumn Vine and freshman Grace Wilczek each had a pair of kills, and Kibbel had a block kill late to help Columbus get closer with a 25-17 victory.
However, in the fourth set, the Dons just ran out of gas. Laona/Wabeno seemed to get to every kill attempt and turn it into points of its own.
Elizabeth Krawze served six-straight points and Grace Krawze, the Rebels’ steady setter, had five in a row, including an ace, as Laona/Wabeno built an 18-7 lead.
Wilczek had a kill on an assist from Lily Stratman to help the Dons post a 6-1 run to stay alive, but Elizabeth Krawze took over again as she rotated to the front and had two kills to help the Rebels’ finish off the victory, 25-16. She finished with 30 kills in the four-set match.
“She (Krawze) was good on the block, she was a good hitter, and they dug a lot,” Egle said. “They’re a good team, but we played really well and to take a game from them, I’m really proud.”
Sommer had 17 digs, nine kills and nine assists, and Stratman had a team-high 16 assists for the Dons. Kibbel finished with eight kills and 21 digs, Wilcezek had five kills and 18 digs, and Izzy Hoglund had a team-high 28 digs from her libero position for Columbus.
“Our goal was to spread the ball around and use all of our hitters so they couldn’t key up on anybody,” Egle said. “We knew they were going to be good defensively. I thought all the hitters did really well tonight. We did a good job of moving the ball around.”