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Volleyball falls in regional final

The Raider volleyball team opened the WIAA Regional playoffs with a four-set win over Superior last Thursday before losing to top-seeded Eau Claire North in four sets Saturday, Oct. 23 in Eau Claire.

The Raiders defeated Superior in a tight match by scores of 25-20, 23-25, 26-24, 26-24 in Thursday's semifinal before falling to Eau Claire North, 22-25, 13-25, 25-22, 13-25 in Saturday's final.

Head coach Dennis Saathoff said the Raiders had a very balanced attack in the win over Superior, with Jamie Lindstrom, Britni Eberlin, Stephanie Little and Katrina Zenz all recording seven or more kills.

"The encouraging thing about our offense was that our middle attackers were going up hard and when they weren't getting kills they were holding the Superior blockers in place, which allowed our outside hitters to swing against only one blocker," he said. "Amber Saathoff and Ashley Fall led the team in assists and kept the Superior blockers off balance by moving the ball around to our hitters without becoming too predictable."

Amber Saathoff also led the team in service aces while Hannah Wirth and Torrie Traynor led the team in service receptions and digs.

"Fall, Saathoff and Elle Schwartz all picked up several tips on the right side of the court, which had occasionally been a weak area for us this season," the coach said.

Saturday, the Raiders fell to top-seeded Eau Claire North despite playing what Saathoff said was the team's best match of the season. The Raiders played the Huskies tough despite missing Alexa Beauclaire, Alexa Belanger, Maddie Drewiske and Little due to injuries.

"It would have been easy for the girls to fold and go down without a fight, but they stepped up to the challenge and gave North a scare," Saathoff said.

Junior Abby Francis was called up to the varsity from JV to fill the void and tied Amber Saathoff for the team lead in kills. They were followed closely by Lindstrom, Schwartz, Zenz and Eberlin. Lindstrom and Zenz led the team in blocks while Fall and Amber Saathoff were tops in assists.

"Our defense was much more balanced in this match than in the rest of the season," the coach said. "Usually they have been relying on libero Hannah Wirth to pick up most of the digs, and although she still led the team, the disparity was not nearly as great as Francis, Saathoff, Eberlin and Torrie Traynor were all around 10 digs apiece and Fall and Schwartz each added 5 digs.

Saathoff said despite the loss, the team put in a strong effort in its final match of the season.

"It was very rewarding as a coach to see the girls play so well and so hard and really pull together all of the things we have been working on all season."

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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