W-MU volleyball falls one game short of state
The scene was familiar — a full crowd in the Mt. Pleasant gym. One side was wearing red; the other, blue.
It was a rematch of last year’s Class 1A volleyball regional final: Winfield-Mt. Union on one side of the net, facing junior hitter Mikaela Foecke and the top-ranked Holy Trinity Crusaders on the other.
The match ended the same way it did last year: with a Holy Trinity sweep. The Crusaders stopped the ninth-ranked Wolves one game short of the state tournament, winning by scores of 25-6, 25-14 and 25-7.
To W-MU Coach Dave Pieart, however, it wasn’t the same at all.
“They were separate teams entirely,” he said.
This year’s team was led by a different group, played a different way and took a different path through the season.
The Wolves lost a few key players after last year’s regional final — including hitter Alicia Escher, setter Katie Benson and libero Anna Crawford — and at the start of the year, weren’t sure where they’d stand.
“We wanted to get back to this point — well, we wanted to take one more step,” Pieart said. “But I’m proud that we were back here tonight.”
They were led to the regional final once again by a strong group of seniors — including four-year starter Erica Robison and three-year starters Emily Mathews and Shelby Therme.
“It was an excellent group of seniors, and they all made vital contributions,” Pieart said.
Last year, the team largely flew under the radar.
“We took people by surprise,” Pieart said.
This year, they had a target on their backs from the start.
“We knew a lot of people were out for us after last year,” Therme said.
The Wolves started the season at No. 9 in Class 1A, got as high as No. 7 and then dropped out of the rankings for a few weeks before climbing back to No. 9.
They rallied from a two-game deficit for a victory over Sigourney in the regional quarterfinal, and then they swept North Mahaska to find themselves back in the Mt. Pleasant gym, facing Holy Trinity.
A different team with different leaders, a different season — but the same result.
The Wolves were swept out of the postseason for the second straight year by the Crusaders.
W-MU couldn’t say it was surprised.
“We expected a team that was going to be offensive, play good defense and wouldn’t quit,” Pieart said. “We got what we expected.
“We tried to adjust our offensive aiming points, our block coverage,” he added. “But our adjustments didn’t work.”
There’s just not much the Wolves could do to defend against the powerful attack of Foecke, who finished with a team-high 21 kills. There’s not much anyone can do to defend against her — she leads the state with 665 kills on the season.
Therme led W-MU with four kills. Erica Robison and Lou Krieger-Coen had three each and Emily Mathews added two.
Taylor Rodgers had six kills and Brooke Jennings had five.
Therme and Robison each served an ace in the match. Therme had 10 digs and Sam Jamison had eight.
It was the last match for seven W-MU seniors: Robison, Therme, Mathews, Jennings, Darby Harris, Layne Davis and Rodgers.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything better in my last (volleyball) season with the Wolves,” Therme said.
The Wolves finish the season with a record of 25-11, marking the first time in school history that the volleyball team has had back-to-back seasons with at least 25 wins. The Wolves went 28-8 last year.