Bonduel fights for Round 1 victory

Bears face Wittenberg-Birnamwood next

Greg Bates, Leader Correspondent

With a set on the line, Bonduel came through late to pull out a victory – twice.

Bonduel combined to score seven out of the final nine points in the first two sets against Laona/Wabeno, pulling out wins in both sets. The Bears went on to earn a sweep, 25-23, 25-23, 25-12, in the first round of a WIAA Division 3 regional in Bonduel on Tuesday.

It’s the second time Bonduel downed Laona/Wabeno this season. The teams played on Aug. 29 with the Bears winning 2-0.

Bonduel’s ability to close out the first two sets on Tuesday showed the players’ resiliency, according to coach Kim Strayer.

“We just talked about having a little bit more energy on the court, communicating a little bit better,” Strayer said. “We had a couple of times where we were running into each other, which really isn’t like our team. We just need to play our tempo and our game in order to close out those games, and they stepped up and did that.”

“We knew we weren’t playing to our strongest ability, so we just knew that we had to step it up,” Bonduel middle hitter Grace Petcka said. “This could be our last game, so we had to give it all we got.”

Sixth-seeded Bonduel took its biggest lead of the first set, 12-9, before Laona/Wabeno, the No. 11 seed, clawed back to go up 23-22. But a service error by the Rebels and not being able to take advantage of a free ball put the Bears up 24-23. McKenzie Wollenberg closed out a set with a kill to give Bonduel a 25-23 victory.

Laona/Wabeno went up 11-6 in the second set, but Bonduel (14-16, 5-4 Central Wisconsin Conference-East) wasn’t going away. Two kills and a block kill by Petcka put the Bears in front, 16-14. The Rebels tied the game at 21, but back-to-back points by Kylie Guenther gave Bonduel a two-point lead. Petcka closed out a strong set with a kill for a 25-23 win.

The third set started out tight as Bonduel was up 12-10, but then the Bears rattled off 12 straight points en route to a 25-12 thumping.

Bonduel had contributions all around, but Strayer singled out Brynn Reinke, one of the team’s four seniors, for playing a standout game. She finished with team highs in assists (26) and aces (six).

“Kind of our unsung hero on our team, doesn’t get a lot of recognition, but she always does what she needs to do,” Strayer said. “She’s led the entire season, never missed a single game, a single practice. The kid just works hard.”

Earning the sweep should give the Bonduel players some confidence heading into Round 2 against third-seeded Wittenberg-Birnamwood on Thursday.

“We know that it’s going to be hard, so it will help us a lot with the momentum,” Petcka said.

The two teams are familiar with one another, squaring off twice during the regular season with two Wittenberg-Birnamwood victories, 3-0 and 2-0.

“Knowing them, the girls have a little chip on their shoulder,” Strayer said. “Wittenberg has handled us fairly easily – not so much the first game that we played them in conference. We hung with them and (had) really awesome volleys. But at the tournament, they whooped us. Beating a team three times is hard, and I’m hoping Wittenberg’s not able to do that – that we’re able to come out there and play our best game and beat them on Thursday.”