Northwood spikers advance to second straight WIAA sectional semifinal matchEvergreens host Prentice Buccaneers Thursday night
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
MINONG — The Northwood Evergreens are heading back to the Division 4 sectional volleyball tournament with a 3-0 (26-24, 25-13, 25-17) win over Drummond Saturday night in the regional finals.
“It feels really great to win another regional championship,” said Northwood senior Deanna Scheller. “It’s not something that really happens that often at this school, so to do it two years in a row is amazing.”
The Evergreens now move on to the section semifinals at 7 p.m. Thursday. No travel will be necessary for the team, as Northwood School was chosen to host this year’s semifinal match.
Facing the Evergreens will be Prentice, which defeated Rib Lake 3-1 (22-25, 25-20, 25-8, 25-20) Saturday to advance.
Prentice is a familiar opponent for the Evergreens. The girls basketball team faced the Buccaneers in last year’s sectional championship game and defeated Prentice to advance to the state tournament.
A trip to Saturday’s sectional final match in Chippewa Falls is on the line this time.
Fans in Minong were treated to an intense opening set in Saturday’s match with the Drummond Lumberjills. The largest lead of the game was four points, and the score was tied 14 times.
“If I had any hair, I would have lost it,” said Northwood coach Tod Wise.
The game remained a virtual stalemate through the first 24 points, but at 14-12 Drummond began to inch away. The Lumberjills added to their slim lead when Northwood misjudged a hit and then let another ball drop because of poor communication.
“We just started out really slow and we weren’t playing our game,” Scheller said. “We were beating ourselves really.”
Wise called a time out to settle his team, and the Evergreens responded with two fast points to make it 19-17, Drummond. Senior Erica Goettl then evened the score for Northwood with consecutive ace serves, and the Evergreens reclaimed a 21-20 lead with a tipped ball.
“We didn’t capitalize on their mistakes,” said Drummond coach Breanne Hanson. “We ended up giving them back way too many that we shouldn’t have.”
Despite letting Northwood back into the game, Drummond had a chance for the win after an ace serve from Christina Wickingson gave the ’Jills a 24-23 lead.
Northwood came through with a kill to stay alive, 24-24, and Sarah Benson and Ashley Block then combined for a block to give Northwood the lead. Ashley Block finished the game on the next volley with a hit that nicked the back line for the 26-24 win.
“If we could have finished and taken that first game, I think that would have made a difference for the entire match,” Hanson said. “To lose one after fighting that hard, they kind of gave up on themselves and took themselves out of it for the rest of the time.”
The narrow win had the opposite effect on the Evergreens.
“Whenever we come back from being behind, it always gets everyone pumped up,” Scheller said. “We’re all just yelling and it gets everybody motivated to really start out strong the next game, and that’s what we did.”
After Northwood’s rocky start in the opening game, the Evergreens sped out to a 7-2 lead in game two. Scheller started the attack for Northwood with a huge spike, while Annie Block and Goettl also added points.
The Evergreens then went on a 7-1 run to lead 15-3 and finished off strong to win 25-13.
“Whenever we go against somebody that has a better record, somebody like a Washburn or a Minong, if we get intimidated we don’t play well,” Hanson said. “As soon as they can see that you’re lacking confidence, they capitalize on that.”
The Lumberjills fell behind early again in the third game, 11-5, but a 5-0 run moved them within one point of the Evergreens. Northwood answered with an 8-1 run, and Ashley Block again ended the game for the Evergreens with a kill, 25-17.
“All year, the one thing we’ve done consistently is hustle,” Wise said. “We’ve always hustled, kept the ball alive, kept it in play and forced the other teams to make mistakes. This year we’ve also been coming from behind more — like tonight — and we’ve won.”
“It’s such a team effort,” Wise continued. “We don’t have a star; we just don’t. Everybody just does their job.”