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Volleyball wins home invite

Hudson's Hannah Cook spikes the ball for a kill in the Raiders' 3-0 win over Bloomer in the first match of the Hudson Invitational Saturday at the high school.1 / 2
Hudson's Mariah Hallen (16) and Elizabeth Kotoski (11) go up for a block attempt at the net in the Raider volleyball team's match against Bloomer at the Hudson Invitational last Saturday at the high school. The Raiders went 3-0 to win the tourney title.2 / 2

The Raider volleyball team opened up Big Rivers Conference play with a 5-set loss at Menomonie last Thursday before going 3-0 to take first place at their home Hudson Invitational on Saturday.

The Raiders didn't lose a game Saturday, sweeping Bloomer and Prescott in round robin play before winning all three games against Superior in the championship round.

"It was good to get back in the gym quickly after our loss on Thursday to see if we could put it all behind us, and we surely did just that," head coach Dennis Saathoff said. "I was very happy our girls could celebrate their home tournament with a first place finish. It has been a couple of years since we have been able to do that and it is very special for the seniors to get to do that."

The Raiders started the day missing three seniors due to ACT testing. Alexa Haines was moved up from JV to fill in at libero and responded with 10 digs and 13 service receptions.

"I was a little worried when we started the day with three of our normal starters out taking the ACT test, especially after the slow start we had on Thursday night," Saathoff said. "But we found the right rotation of girls right away in the first set and they stuck together and played very well all day long. When the three seniors returned, they fit seamlessly back into the rotation and were able to celebrate the tournament victory with the rest of their teammates."

Mariah Hallen and Elizabeth Kotoski each hit over .500 for the day, while Brooke Little led the setters with 51 assists while contributing four kills and seven service aces.

"We only had one bad lapse of play in the first set against Superior, but we were able to put on a big run of our own early enough in the match to keep some of the pressure off of needing to catch up," Saathoff said. "I was very proud of how the girls responded to any challenges throughout the day and the positive attitude they brought to the court."

Saathoff called last Thursday's BRC opening loss at Menomonie disappointing. After losing the first two sets, 18-25, 21-25, Hudson recovered to win the next two, 25-13, 25-23, only to drop the fifth and final set, 12-15.

"We played very tentative the first two sets and let Menomonie get on too many runs," Saathoff said. "In the middle of each set we did make it close, but we just did not sustain our level of play where it needed to be. In sets three and four we passed the ball much better and were able to run our offense, which allowed us to win those two. Then in the last set, we again started out passing poorly and had no energy."

Hudson trailed by eight in the fifth set before pulling to within one but couldn't sustain the momentum.

Serena Schultz led the team with 16 kills while Melissa Hammer recorded nine kills and Taylor Steffen, Hannah Cook and Hannah Ross finished with eight apiece.

Becca Woitas dished out a team-high 34 assists while Hannah Wirth led the defense with 37 service receptions and 20 digs. Saathoff said Baylie Martin played solid left-side defense, committing just one reception error all night.

"This was a tough loss for us because had we played with just a little more emotion in the first two sets we surely would have won the match," Saathoff said. "Having to beat a team three straight sets after they have won the first two is a very tough task to accomplish, so as a team we need to work on getting a better start to the match."

The Raiders will host Rice Lake in a BRC match this Thursday, Sept. 13, at 7:15 p.m. in the high school's east gym.

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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