Gresham falls to Rosholt in back-and-forth match

Wildcats show plenty of fight in loss
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Leader photo by Morgan Rode Makayla Belongia (4) spikes the ball during Gresham’s match with Rosholt in Gresham on Tuesday.

A Tuesday night Central Wisconsin Conference crossover match against Rosholt was a microcosm of the Gresham Community High School volleyball team’s start to the season.

The Wildcats flashed moments of strong play but also showed signs of inexperience in a five-set loss to the Hornets by scores of 25-14, 17-25, 26-24, 20-25, 15-9.

The mixed results for Gresham should come as no surprise, as it is looking to replace a handful of all-conference players from last year’s team that made it all the way to a Division 4 sectional semifinal.

The Wildcats split a pair of matches at a triangular to open the season before dropping three games in a tournament. In the team’s next tournament, it went 3-0 to bring its record to 4-4 entering the clash with the Hornets.

The teams battled back and forth to open the first set. With the score tied at five, the visitors went on a run to take a five-point advantage.

Gresham was able to keep Rosholt from widening its lead, but was never able to overcome the deficit. The Hornets forced the Wildcats to take their second timeout when it took a 21-14 lead and took the next four points after the short break to win the set.

Gresham and Rosholt battled to a 14-all tie in the second set before the Wildcats took the next four points to seize control. The hosts eventually widened their lead to five to force a Rosholt timeout.

The Wildcats kept the momentum rolling, winning four of the next five points to claim the set. Strong serving by freshman Valarie Cerveny helped Gresham close out the set.

The hosts carried the momentum they gained during the second set into the third set, racing out to a five-point advantage to force a Rosholt timeout. Gresham then increased its lead to 10 at 18-8 and looked to be in control.

Rosholt put the pressure back on the hosts by taking the next four points. With Gresham holding a 21-13 advantage, the Hornets won nine straight points to take the lead. The Wildcats tied the set up twice, but in the end, Rosholt came away with the 26-24 win.

Facing another one-set deficit, Gresham faced an uphill climb. Rosholt jumped out to a seven-point advantage at 14-7 before Gresham started clicking on all cylinders.

The hosts cut the deficit down the three to force a timeout. With Rosholt then holding a 20-15 lead, Gresham won each of the next 10 points behind several kills from senior Karisa Nietzer and some solid serving from senior Kennedy Hoffman and sophomore Makayla Belongia to force a deciding fifth set.

Each team came out hungry for the win in the fifth set, but Gresham held a slim 6-4 advantage early. Rosholt won the next four points to force a timeout from the hosts. The Hornets then took four of the next five points to take a 12-7 advantage.

Gresham was never able to cut its deficit below four, allowing Rosholt to come away with the hard-earned victory.

Despite the loss and 4-5 start overall, Gresham coach Tim Wild is happy with the direction the team is trending.

“We have a lot of young players on our team, and I like how we are progressing early in the season,” he said. “We’ve played a lot of matches already, so we haven’t had a lot of practice time. And even with a young team, they are really showing progression on the court in these matches.”

Following the game, Gresham players already had taken their coach’s words to heart on what needs to be fixed moving forward.

“We will learn from our mistakes. In practice, we will work on moving our feet and communicating better as a team,” Nietzer said.

“We learned that we need to receive better, get our bumps higher and work on our serving too,” Cerveny said.

Nietzer led the Wildcats with 18 kills and also recorded 10 service points. Cerveny posted a team-leading 19 assists while Hoffman had 14 service points. Senior Tiana Ferguson totaled 12 digs and 11 service points.

Gresham will have a week of practice to make some adjustments before facing Port Edwards in another CWC crossover on Tuesday, Sept. 4.