McFARLAND — For the first time this postseason, and perhaps much longer than that, Madison Edgewood’s girls volleyball team faced real adversity.
The third-ranked Crusaders were down a set and in a battle to avoid an 0-2 hole against Walworth Big Foot in a WIAA Division 2 sectional final Saturday.
One of their senior leaders — Sam Foti — wasn’t playing after suffering an injury earlier in the playoffs, and a momentum-shifting run by the Chiefs put Edgewood just two points from a deep hole.
“This is the first game they’ve dropped in just under two months,” Edgewood coach Steve Bleier said. “This is kind of new ground for them. When you have some strong leadership from your seniors it makes it so much easier to keep them together.”
Of a roster sporting seven seniors, Kaelyn Kessel and Haley Schwenn were the two Crusaders to answer the call. Kessel had 28 kills, Schwenn had 47 assists and Edgewood found a way to win the tight second set along with the next two.
Kessel scored the final three points in the fourth set, giving the Crusaders a 16-25, 25-23, 25-12, 25-21 victory and their third trip to state in the past four years.
“Kaelyn Kessel had a heck of a second, third and fourth game for us,” Bleier said. “She really did, and that was important for us. Really important. We weren’t surprised by her being the one to step up in a crunch-time situation, and boy did she ever. I can’t say enough about what she did for us tonight.”
Edgewood (36-3) never led in the first set, even after a big block from Kessel tied the score at 12. Big Foot (38-7) scored 13 points in a 17-point stretch to win.
The Crusaders jumped out to a 10-4 lead in the second set, though, and were able to hold off the Chiefs’ charge.
Edgewood then started to get into a groove in the third set, pulling away for a the victory.
“The third set was a lot of fun,” Kessel said. “As a team, every single one of us, even the bench, our managers and having all the students and the parents there, everybody just wanted it. We wanted to finish strong.”
Big Foot didn’t go down easily. The Crusaders didn’t grab their first lead of the fourth set until prevailing in a long volley that put them ahead 17-16.
The Chiefs cut the deficit to 22-21 after a timeout before Kessel landed her final three kills, sending the large Edgewood fan contingent into an uproar.
“It’s so special, especially to me,” Schwenn said. “I want to get back there and get that gold ball along with the rest of my teammates.”
Walworth Big Foot 25 23 12 21
Madison Edgewood 16 25 25 25
WALWORTH BIG FOOT (leaders): Kills — Schryver 20; Blocks — Heidenriech 1, Schryver 1, Lagerhausen 1. Aces — Lagerhausen 3. Assists — Mazur 31.
MADISON EDGEWOOD: Kills — Kessel 28. Blocks — Wright 3. Aces — Brown 2. Assists — Schwenn 47.
Wisconsin Heights 2
Ssenior middle blocker Carly Mohns had 22 kills and 16 blocks, and the Cardinals (32-5) beat the Vanguards 25-16, 24-26, 25-20, 25-20, 15-12 to earn their second state berth and first since 2008.
Brodhead 25 24 25 20 15
Wisconsin Heights 16 26 20 25 12
BRODHEAD (leaders): Kills — Mohns 22. Blocks — Mohns 16. Digs — Heller 22. Aces — Mohns 2, Heller 2. Assists — Wright 24.
WISCONSIN HEIGHTS: Kills — Nelson 23. Blocks — Stone 2. Digs — Parks 38. Aces — Nelson 4, Parks 4. Assists — Kalsow 58.
North Crawford 3, Cochrane-Fountain City 1
North Crawford 25 25 20 25
Cochrane-Fountain City 22 16 25 18