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Badgers stopped in WIAA regional final

Niagara junior Bailey Pearson spikes the ball over the net as Three Lakes Sara Gruszynski (11) reaches up in a block attempt Saturday night in a WIAA girls volleyball regional final at Three Lakes. (Kim Gill photo)

THREE LAKES, Wis. — Niagara’s postseason run came to an end Saturday night as the Lady Badgers fell to Three Lakes 25-12, 25-13, 25-17 in a WIAA regional girls volleyball final.

Three Lakes features a very tall and lanky squad, and they use their height to their advantage. The team’s outstanding ball placement, court awareness and serving mostly overwhelmed the young Niagara squad.

“We had some film on Three Lakes. We knew the (Mollee) Gruszynski girl is not pretty good, but very good,” Niagara head coach Carol St. Arnauld said. “Their middle players could really hit the ball, too. We didn’t have our best match of the year, but it really would have taken a great effort to beat them.”

St. Arnauld added, “The girls played with their hearts and that’s all I can ask of them. This group gave it everything they had all season. We played more matches and the season lasted longer than I expected due to the pandemic. I feel very fortunate we got to play this fall.”

The first and third sets started similar, with the Blue Jays jumping out to a significant lead. The second set was nip and tuck at first, with the Badgers playing with enthusiasm and confidence. With the score 9-7, Three Lakes went on strong serving run to basically put the set away.

In the final set, the Badgers fought back behind strong middle hitting, front-row play and the serving of Isabel Jacobs. The fight was to no avail, as the Blue Jays put the match away and claimed a consecutive regional title.

With the loss, St. Arnauld had to say goodbye to four seniors: Haley Allred, Emmah Maki, Alyssa Cretton and Julia Brown.

“I want to thank all four of them. Julia hasn’t been able to play the last week or so because she’s quarantined. It’s awful for her to not be able to finish her senior year with us,” St. Arnauld said.

Despite losing the four seniors, Niagara has a lot of experience coming back.

“Alyssa (Cretton) led us in many aspects the last couple of seasons, we’ll miss her and all of the seniors next year,” St. Arnauld said. “But the cabinets won’t be bare to start next season, that’s for sure.”

Cretton led the team with 12 kills and 11 digs in the match, while teammate Morgan Borchardt led with 17 assists.

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