ASHWAUBENON — The Waunakee girls volleyball team’s triple-threat attack of Kiana Schmitt, Milla Malik and Kaleigh Roepke created a front line that opponents struggled with all season.
But on Thursday, top-ranked Oconomowoc figured out how to slow down the Warriors’ tremendous trio in a WIAA Division 1 quarterfinal at the Resch Center.
Waunakee just couldn’t get going, finishing with an anemic attack percentage of .029 as Oconomowoc took a 25-15, 25-12, 25-22 victory.
The Warriors received a combined 18 kills from Roepke (10), Schmitt (four) and Malik (four), had 25 kills in the match, but also committed 22 errors.
Through the opening two sets, Waunakee (44-8) had a hitting percentage of minus-.060 — meaning the Warriors had more errors on their attacks than kills.
“It was tough because we weren’t passing in system,” Waunakee coach Anne Denkert said. “We didn’t have the three-option pass that we needed to distribute the ball in different places.
“Unfortunately, when we don’t pass as well, we become very one-dimensional — as most teams do.”
Said Waunakee senior CiCi Rindy, who tallied six kills: “We never really fully got into rhythm with our hitting. We had, like, good moments, but I feel like overall it was very hard to get a kill and that was tough on a lot of our hitters.”
Oconomowoc (31-9) played solid defense throughout, totaling seven team blocks and 12 block assists.
And the Raccoons — winners of 15 of their past 16 matches — were tough to stop. They spread their offense around, totaling six players with four or more kills. Katy Kluge led the way with 10.
“When we can get that ball up to Tayler (Alden) and she has three hitting options every time, four including our back-row hitters, we’re unstoppable when we can play like that,” Oconomowoc coach Michelle Bruss said.
Oconomowoc’s balanced attack was difficult for Waunakee to handle.
“Not only do you have to contain the setter (Alden), and she’s difficult to contain, but then they’re running a pretty fast offense with the middle with the slide behind,” Denkert said.
“Their outside (hitters) are not afraid — even at (5-foot-8), those girls know how to make shots and use blockers and get kills.”
Waunakee (44-8) pulled within 12-9 in the opening set, but Oconomowoc (31-9) went on a 10-5 run to win going away. The Raccoons led all but once, at 3-2, in the second set and scored 12 of the final 16 points.
Despite being down two sets, the Warriors didn’t go down without a fight in the final set. Waunakee trailed by six late, but back-to-back kills by Kiana Schmitt and Roepke capped a 4-0 run that cut Oconomowoc’s lead to 22-20. But Oconomowoc finished the sweep from there.
Despite the loss, it was a monumental season for Waunakee, which made it to state for the first time in 24 years and the first time in Denkert’s 17 years as coach.
And the Warriors return all but four players next season, including their top three players in kills, so a trip back to the Resch Center next year already is their goal.
“Next year this puts a lot of encouragement and confidence in us, because we’ve done it before and we can do it again,” said Roepke, a junior.
“We finally got over the sectional final hump, which I know we lost last year, but I feel like it put a lot of drive in us to make it back.”
Oconomowoc 25 25 25
Waunakee 15 12 22
OCONOMOWOC (leaders): Kills (36) — Kluge 10, Alden 8, Shult 6, Garvens 4, Eberle 4, Christopherson 4. Assists (36) — Alden 27. Digs (48) — Garvens 11, Kluge 11, Jaeger 10, Sharkus 9. Blocks (7.0) — Shult 1-4. Aces (6) — Garvens 2, Shult 2. Attack percentage — .213.
WAUNAKEE (leaders): Kills (25) — Roepke 10, Rindy 6, Schmitt 4, Malik 4. Assists (24) — Schwenn 12, Miller 9, Malone 3. Digs (46) — Malik 11, Malone 10, Miller 8, Schwenn 6, Check 4. Blocks (2) — McDonald 0.5, Schmitt 0.5, Rindy 0.5, Langendorf 0.5. Aces (3) — Malik 2, Malone 1. Attack percentage — .029.