Zephyrs sweep Witt-Birn in regional title match

Chargers play much of match from behind

Dennis Wilson, Leader Correspondent

Photo by Tina Bacon Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School volleyball players Lauren Bushman (4), Elizabeth Muscha (22), Brogan Lehman (6), Koreena Miller (8), Abi Fraaza (12) and Lindsey Schwalbach (10) celebrate a point against St. Mary Catholic in a WIAA Division 3 regional final on Saturday in Neenah. St. Mary’s swept the Chargers 25-18, 25-20 and 25-19.

Photo by Tina Bacon Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School libero Elizabeth Muscha makes a dig during a WIAA Division 3 regional final Saturday in Neenah. St. Mary Catholic swept the Chargers 25-18, 25-20 and 25-19.

Despite the effort of seniors Lauren Bushman, Brogan Lehman, Koreena Miller and the rest of the Wittenberg-Birnamwood volleyball team, the Chargers came up a bit short, dropping a 3-0 decision to St. Mary Central in a WIAA Division 3 regional final Saturday in Neenah.

St. Mary’s knocked off the Chargers by scores of 25-18, 25-20 and 25-19 to claim the regional title. Superior defense and setting were the difference for the Zephyrs.

“They had good servers and they had runs, and we didn’t,” said head coach Becky Rew. “That was a difference. I was proud of the girls, though. No matter what came their way, they never quit.

“In the first game, they had a big lead, but we came back. We fought with them. I am very proud of the girls for fighting like that.”

St. Mary Central gave the Chargers problems from the outset. Especially in games one and three, the Zephyrs jumped out to big early leads, and the Chargers found themselves playing from behind.

In game one, after finding themselves down 11-5, the Chargers turned the ball over to libero Elizabeth Muscha. The sophomore promptly served up five straight points, including two serving aces, to get the score to 11-10. A back-row violation by the Zephyrs tied the score at 13, and the two teams went back and forth until St. Mary Central pulled away at the end for the victory.

Game two saw the Chargers get off to a much better start and battle evenly most of the way, never allowing the Zephyrs to take more than a two-point lead. St. Mary Central’s superior defense and setting came into play, and with the score tied at 20, outside hitter Alyssa Rankin served the final five points for the Zephyrs, including three service aces, to close out game two.

Game three was nearly an exact replica of game one, with the Zephyrs jumping out to an early 6-1 lead and the Chargers spending the rest of the game playing catch-up. But once again, the defense and setting of St. Mary Central brought an end to the match and the season for the Chargers.

“We were definitely used to teams that were beatable this season,” Bushman said. “We had played against teams that were ranked similarly to us. We thought we would be able to hang with them; we tried our hardest.”

The Chargers (13-17) were led in the match by Bushman, who recorded 11 kills, and Muscha, who led in service aces (five), digs (19) and service receptions (29). Miller paced the Chargers with 24 assists.

“It was absolutely a team effort,” Rew said when asked who stood out in the match. “Everyone did their job. One time we had a great save; next time we had a great serve; next time we had a great hit.

“They all served and play well. I can’t say enough about this group of girls. They all played well, and they played well as a team.”

The loss notwithstanding, the Chargers had no reason to hang their heads. Although there were tears of sadness because of the loss, the Chargers were able to look back on their season and realize they had accomplished almost every goal they had set for themselves at the beginning of the season.

Witt-Birn was able to post a perfect 6-0 record in the Central Wisconsin Conference-East and win a conference title. Making the regional final was another goal they achieved.

The seniors were able to look beyond the sadness of the loss and see what they and their teammates were able to achieve.

“We came in as underdogs after losing a lot of seniors last year,” Lehman said. “Our school didn’t have much pride in us, but we showed them that we could win conference and come back bigger than last year.”

“I definitely think that even though we have a big graduating class, we have a lot of underclassmen with a lot of potential and talent on our team,” Miller added. “Hopefully the next couple of years to come are just as successful.”

St. Mary Catholic (25-15), champion of the Big Red Conference-East, advanced to face Oconto (20-11) in the sectional tournament Thursday.