Veterans lead young Pirates back to state
WATERLOO — While Waterloo seniors Claire Mosher and Grace Meyer were helping the Pirates win a second consecutive Division 3 state volleyball championship back in 2015, younger players were waiting in the wings from the stands.
If Mosher and Meyer wanted to get back to the Resch Center, they would need those understudies to step in and make the transition to playing high-level volleyball.
It took awhile. The Pirates were denied a third straight trip to state with a regional final loss to Capitol South rival Wisconsin Heights a year ago. But they returned the favor in this year’s regional title match, and are now returning to the state tournament.
They face a familiar rival in Lake Country Lutheran, the team Waterloo beat in the 2015 state title match. The Lightning are the top-ranked team in the state, while the Pirates were ranked eighth in the last regular season poll.
“It’s crazy up there,” Claire Mosher said. “Any time you go to state, it doesn’t even feel real at all. I’m super excited. This group of girls, it’s going to be a whole different experience for them and I’m super excited for it.”
Mosher, who will join older sister, Madeline, on Marquette’s team next season, has taken over the leadership role. She has 364 kills, 577 assists, 22 solo blocks, 36 block assists and 333 digs this season.
Her younger sister, freshman Brooke Mosher, is a 5-foot-11 carbon copy of a sibling. She has 429 kills, 439 assists, 17 solo blocks, 26 block assists and 234 digs.
She’s enjoyed the chance to play with her older sister this season in matching setter/outside hitter roles, and has learned to be more vocal as the season has progressed. That includes barking at Big Sis once in a while.
“Yeah, especially when the sets aren’t there, I tell her,” Brooke Mosher said.
“I think we’ve grown together as a team, gotten more chemistry together. After those two games (playoffs win over Wisconsin Heights and Cuba City), I felt really good. I knew I was going to come out and try as hard as I possibly could. I think it’s great when everyone else can get involved because then they know they are part of the team and doing great.”
While the Moshers have put up killer statistics, the other Pirates have really made this a complete team.
Freshman outside hitter Joslyn Wolff has 237 kills and 245 digs.
If the opponents are focusing too much on the Moshers, Wolff has been a viable third option.
“I feel really blessed to play with them,” Wolff said. “The Moshers are really super good. I am glad I have the opportunity to play with them. Not everyone does.
“The season went really well I am really proud of us all. Our talking has definitely gotten better. At the beginning of the season, we were a team, but now I feel like we’re really, really close, like sisters. We all come together and work everything out as a team.”
Wolff has played with Brooke Mosher since kindergarten. She soaked up the atmosphere Waterloo experienced at the Resch Center while in middle school.
“I thought it was so exotic,” Wolff said. “Everyone was so happy to be there. It was just fun to be there and watch.”
Waterloo’s middle/right side players do their part as well.
Six-foot sophomore Sydney Schonhoff has 61 kills, eight solo blocks and 30 blocking assists. Sophomore Chloe Fitzgerald has 45 kills, seven solo blocks and 36 blocking assists. Senior Gretta Yahn has 59 kills and 25 blocking assists.
The middles have enjoyed playing this season without much in the way of double blocking. That would be a suicide mission for opposing teams with the Moshers lurking on the edges.
“It’s pretty nice, I’m not going to lie,” Yahn said. “They’re good. They know what they are doing.”
Yahn’s older sister, Gylli, played on the 2014 state championship team. The next year, she spent half the season on junior varsity and half as a varsity reserve.
“I watched my sister win my freshman year, so that was pretty nice,” Yahn said.
“We’ve grown a lot this season. I would say at the beginning, we struggled with (chemistry). It was hard for us to play together because we have a lot of young girls on our team, but we’ve improved a lot and gotten a lot better.”
In the back row, Meyer has been a fixture at libero for three seasons. She has 297 digs on the season despite playing with a groin pull sustained in practice two weeks ago.
“I definitely do feel it (during matches), but I just push through the pain and strive to keep myself going,” Meyer said.
Junior Katie Kuhl (179 digs) and sophomore Avery Meyer (107 digs) have seen plenty of floor time while learning under their veteran libero.
“I think this year, we have a lot of talent,” Grace Meyer said. “It was just undeveloped, because we have a very young team where as the last time we had a lot of seniors that contributed. This year, we’re so young. When we get up (to state), we just have to keep working hard and strive for perfection. That’s the name of the game.”
Nicole Bakalars is in her second season as the head coach. She’s enjoyed seeing her players put this state tournament run together.
“It feels great,” Bakalars said. “The girls have been working hard they have been coming before school, before practices and in summer they were doing workouts. Coming into the season, they knew this was what they wanted. This was their goal.
“I feel like every single girl on this team was a huge part of getting to state. They pushed each other in practices and games. They were supportive. It’s really the girls. They wanted it. They worked hard.”
The matchup with Lake Country Lutheran features two Division 1 recruits — Claire Mosher, and LCL senior Brooke Anderson, an Iowa recruit.
“We know it’s going to be a big game, I know a girl on that team (Anderson) and she’s an amazing hitter and I am so excited to play her, but at the same time, I really want to beat them, too,” Claire Mosher said. “We played them at their own tournament. It was a rough loss, but I think it’s going to jack us up to play them at state.”
The Lightning won the regular season meeting at their host tournament in three sets, with a 15-13 win in the third set.
“I know they’re a good team,” Bakalars said. “They are No. 1 in state right now and have been pretty much the entire season.
“Brooke Anderson is a phenomenal player for them. Her vertical is ridiculous. So is her ability to place the ball and hit the ball. Going up against her will be a challenge.
“We haven’t faced anyone else like her this season. It’s something we’ve been working on. I am hoping our blocking has gotten better and our passing is better. I think we’re on the right track, I think we’re ready for it. It’s up the for the girls to just want it and go for everything.”
WIAA Division 3 notes: Regis is back in the tournament for the second time in the last three seasons and for the seventh time overall. The Ramblers won the championship in 2013. They also have two runner-up finishes on their ledger, those came in Division 4 in 2003 and in Division 3 in 2004. Prior to joining the WIAA, Regis won Division 2 titles in the defunct WISAA in 1992, 1995 and 1997. Regis beat Grantsburg 23-25, 26-24, 25-21, 25-18 in the sectional final played at Regis to advance to the semifinals. The Ramblers are the runners-up in the Western Division of the Cloverbelt Conference this year. Lake Country Lutheran is making its second state appearance in the past three seasons. The Lightning finished runner-up in their first appearance in 2015. They downed Manitowoc Lutheran 25-22, 25-16, 25-20 in the Kohler Sectional final to advance to the semifinals. They finished atop the Midwest Conference standings this season. Stratford is making its first State Tournament appearance following a hard fought 23-25. 25-14, 17-25, 25-18, 15-9 victory over St. Mary Catholic in the Athens Sectional final. The Tigers shared the title in the South Division of the Marawood Conference this year with Division 4 qualifier Newman Catholic.
FINALS ON FS WISCONSIN PLUS: Watch the broadcast of the WIAA State Girls Volleyball finals Saturday on FS Wisconsin Plus. The Division 4 and the Division 3 finals will be aired live at 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., respectively. The Division 2 and Division 1 championship finals will be aired at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., respectively. Check local cable listings for the FS Wisconsin Plus channel in your area.
State Tournament pairings
River Falls (40-0) vs. Kimberly (26-10) 4:30 p.m.
Waunakee (44-7) vs. Oconomowoc (30-9) 4:30 p.m.
Greendale (32-10) vs. Divine Savior Holy Angels (36-14) 7 :30 p.m.
Mukwonago (33-6) vs. Burlington (32-10) 7:30 p.m.
Semifinal (Thursday’s 4:30 p.m. winners) 7 p.m.
Semifinal (Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. winners) 7 p.m.
Championship match 4:30 p.m.
Merrill (32-7) vs. Luxemburg-Casco (40-8) 4 p.m.
Lakeside Lutheran (37-5) vs. Catholic Memorial (30-21) 4 p.m.
Championship match 2 p.m.
Regis (25-6) vs. Stratford (44-1) 1 p.m.
Waterloo (27-15) vs. Lake Country Lutheran (43-5) 1 p.m.
Championship match 11:30 a.m.
Clayton (30-2) vs. Newman Catholic (29-11) 10 a.m.
Benton (25-2) vs. Lourdes Academy (35-9) 10 a.m.
Championship match 9 a.m.