By BURT ANGELI
FLORENCE, Wis. - Florence has a score to settle with Wabeno in Thursday's WIAA Division 4 volleyball sectional semifinal at Lena.
The Northern Lakes Conference champion Logrollers opened the 2012 season with a 3-0 (25-19, 25-20, 25-18) sweep of the Bobcats. That was second-place Florence's only league setback.
The Bobcats also remember a 2011 regional final loss to Wabeno.
"The girls are looking forward to facing Wabeno again," Florence Coach Trudy Rochon said. "They will be ready."
Florence swept Wausaukee, while Wabeno downed Niagara in regional finals Saturday.
"I think the key to our success on Thursday is to play loose," Rochon said. "We need to let our game just flow.
"The girls are developing more confidence every time they play."
Wabeno demonstrated several strong servers along with big hitters against the Badgers.
"Doing a good job on serve receive is important to keep our offense controlling the match, "Rochon said. "We will need to continue to play strong at the net.
"We had season high block kills against Wausaukee and that needs to continue."
Florence tallied 10 block kills - eight by Aly Young - against the Rangers.
Wabeno Coach Michelle Boor cited "strong hitting, strong passing and good serves" for her team's success this fall.
"They play the floor well," Boor noted.
Wabeno, 32-2, suffered losses to Wisconsin Dells and Neillsville this season.
Niagara Coach Carol St. Arnauld credited Wabeno's hitting and net play for the regional results.
"It wasn't just one girl," St. Arnauld said. "They didn't have a go-to girl. They had sets here and sets there.
"I don't know if they played better defense because we never hit the ball at them like they hit to us."
St. Arnauld thinks Florence (20-15-6 record) could reach the sectional final.
"Florence has improved as the season has gone on," said St. Arnauld, whose Badgers outlasted the Bobcats 3-2 in a late August match. "But you have to minimize your mistakes and play smart volleyball."
Florence made few errors in the regional final, Wausaukee Coach Tom Pleyte told The Eagle Herald.
"Florence is a team that doesn't hurt themselves too often," Pleyte said. "If we were going to score on them, we'd have to earn it."
The Bobcats recovered from a 24-21 deficit in the third set to beat the Rangers and win the regional.
"This group never gives up, even if we're down late," Rochon said. "We were down two games to one on Thursday (against Elcho), but came back to win. I think that really prepared us for any deficit."
Third-seeded Florence and top-seeded Wabeno will meet at 7 p.m. The winner faces Wausau Newman Catholic, ranked third in the state, or Greenwood in the sectional finals Saturday at Marion.
"When you come into a match as the lower seed, it really takes the pressure off you and I think that was helpful (Saturday)," Rochon said. "We'll face a tough Wabeno team in sectionals, but I have all the confidence in the world in this team."