By Paul Lecker
AUBURNDALE – The Stratford volleyball team buckled down at the end of each set to separate itself from Auburndale and went on to defeat the Eagles 3-0 in a Marawood Conference South Division matchup Tuesday night at Auburndale High School.
The Tigers won 26-24, 25-18, 25-22 and are now 2-1 in the Marawood South. Auburndale falls to 1-2.
The first set was tight throughout as the two teams felt each other out.
Auburndale pulled ahead 22-19 after a kill by Brianna Weiler and had a set point at 24-23 following back-to-back kills by Josie Ertl, but Stratford wasn’t going to go away.
Tessa Berg had a kill to tie the match then served out the final two points, the last one on a kill, to give the Tigers a hard-fought 26-24 win.
Auburndale never led in the second set, but kept it close. Two kills by Ertl tied the match at 13-13 and the Eagles stayed within one or two before the Tigers pulled away.
Following a sideout, Wiese served out the final five points, the last one on an ace, to finish off a 25-18 victory and put Stratford in control.
Stratford took a 10-4 lead to start the third set as Wiese and Berg had kills.
Auburndale rallied and eventually took an 18-17 lead after two more kills from Ertl, and were up 21-19 at one point before Stratford put together another impressive run to close out the match.
Hailey Chapel had two service aces and Mei Bean had a kill to finish off the victory, 25-22.
“This is exactly what our team has been waiting for,” Stratford coach Brooke Kafka said. “We’ve been waiting for that to click, waiting for that to come into a gym, play 1-2-3 and finish. I’m proud of the girls. Any win in the conference is a great win. We just move on from here.”
Wiese and Berg each had five kills for Stratford. Ally Zuleger had 10 assists and Chapel added nine, and Zuelger and Chapel both had four service aces as the Tigers finished with 13 overall.
Ertl had 11 kills, Weiler had eight digs, Ashlyn Grimm had 18 assists, and Nicole Marth had four of Auburndale’s 10 aces in the match.
Stratford will compete in the Abbotsford Invitational on Saturday before returning to Marawood South action Tuesday, Sept. 28 at Marathon. Auburndale will be off for a week before a conference match at Wisconsin Rapids Assumption next Tuesday.