|10/27/2022 11:24:00 AM|
Pointers are Regional Champs, turn to Brodhead as next foe
By Levi Zimmerman
What has been an already exciting 2022 season became more exciting Thursday night for the Mineral Point volleyball team.
With a Southwest Wisconsin Activities League Championship under their belt, the Pointers added a WIAA Division 3 Regional Championship to their resume by sweeping the Darlington Redbirds at home.
The two-seeded Pointers hosted the six-seeded Redbirds after defeating Parkview in a Regional Quarterfinal and Viroqua in a Regional Semifinal.
The SWAL foes met up for the third time this year, and Mineral Point advanced their set winning streak to nine with the match win, but it wasn't without some struggle from the Redbirds.
After winning the opening set by a score of 25-17, the Pointers found themselves down big early on in set two, as Darlington took an 18-8 lead.
But, just like they have done in the past, Mineral Point pulled things together and went on a spurt, cutting the score to 23-22.
The Pointers would then go ahead 24-23, but Darlington responded with back-to-back points to regain control.
Both sides continued to trade scores, as Darlington took a 28-27 lead, but an errant serve tied the score once again.
The Pointers would use the error to their advantage and take a 29-28 lead.
That's when the momentum shifted for good, as a pair of Kennedys hooked up for the match point.
Senior Kennedy Kabat assisted senior Kennedy Wenger on a kill to give the Pointers a thrilling 30-28 lead to win the set.
Darlington wasn't able to recover from the series of events, and Mineral Point rolled to a 25-13 win in the third set to get the victory and the Regional Championship.
"Saturday was a great matchup and even better environment," said Mineral Point head coach Kari Kabat. "We came out ready to play, but so did Darlington. They looked much better this time around than during the regular season matchups. Our passing was near perfect in set one, which helped us control the tempo of the game offensively. In set two, our passers struggled a bit with consistency, which threw our whole offense out of system, and we made a lotof errors. We were down most of game two. It was 16-6 when I took my second timeout of the match. I knew we needed to get some momentum back if we were going to take back control of game three. We really focused on one point at a time and tried to pull the game closer and get the momentum back on our side. Points went back and forth, and we were still down 10 points at 18-8 in game two. It is near impossible to come back from a 10-point deficit that late in the game, but our girls just remained calm and focused on passing to get our offense back on track. We kept closing the gap until we were down 21-17 when they called a timeout. We practice 21-17 scenarios often in practice, so we talked about that in the timeout huddle. The girls knew they needed to stay aggressive, but play clean volleyball. That is exactly what they did.
"The last points of game two were back and forth, and the energy in the gym was electric. Both fan clubs were absolutely amazing, and it was a fun match. Once we were able to pull out game two after being down 10, I don't think there was any doubt in our girls' minds that they were going to win in three," said Kabat.
She said is proud of her team for persevering through the first part of what is hoped to be a long postseason run.
"I am so proud of our girls for how they have handled the pressure of the postseason. We are playing some of our best volleyball of the year at the right time. We know if we play our game, we can beat almost anyone we come against. These girls have accomplished so much this season, and they are not ready to be done," she said.
Coach Kabat crredited the Pointers' with being team-led, as senior leadership has been key.
"Like Kennedy Wenger said, 'There is more work to do.' That type of leadership is the reason we are having so much success. Our senior captains and group as a whole has put in a lot of hard work to get to this point, and they are focused on one game at a time. We are looking forward to playing a tough Brodhead team on Thursday," Kabat stated.
Brodhead is ranked fifth in the state in the most recent Wisconsin Volleyball Coaches Association poll.
Mineral Point and Brodhead faced each other earlier in the season, and Brodhead defeated the Pointers in two sets during tournament play.
"Like they say, if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. It will be a good matchup for us. We saw them earlier in the year and didn't have a great performance, so we are looking forward to the rematch," Kabat said about facing Brodhead once more.
Kabat said the matchup is sort of a "full circle" moment for her.
"On a side note, the coach for Brodhead, Erin Kammerer, and myself went to high school together and both played at UW-Platteville. We were captains at UW-P together for Erin's last year. We are now coaching against each other, and both have senior and freshmen daughters on our varsity squads. What a crazy coincidence. There are a lot of volleyball coaching branches out there from the late 90's Iowa-Grant volleyball teams under Lois Peart. Platteville assistant coach, Heather McNeill, also played with us, and they are still going as well," she explained.
The SWAL All-Conference Volleyball list was released last week that includes Kabat named Coach of the Year, four players receiving First Team honors and one Honorable Mention recognition.
#1 Brodhead will host #2 Mineral Point this Thursday at 7:00 p.m. in a WIAA Division 3 Sectional Semifinal.
- Regan Suddeth 3
- Kennedy Wenger 19
- Kennedy Kabat 7
- Mackenzie Aurit 20
- Bre Goninen 7
- Kennedy Kabat 4
- Kennedy Wenger 3
- Kennedy Wenger 22
- Kennedy Kabat 19
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