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Busy first week for Raider spikers

Raider senior Katrina Zenz reaches high to make a kill at the St. Croix Central Quad last Thursday in Hammond. Photo by Dave Newman1 / 2
Raider volleyball coach Dennis Saathoff high-fives his players entering a timeout at the season-opening St. Croix Central Quad last Thursday. The Raiders went undefeated, posting victories over St. Croix Central, Greenwood and Prescott. Photo by Dave Newman2 / 2

The Raider volleyball team opened the season with 11 matches in three days last week, going undefeated at the St. Croix Central Quad last Thursday, Aug. 25 before finishing fourth in the Silver Division, and 14th overall, at the 30-team, two-day, UW-Stout Sprawl Tournament in Menomonie Friday and Saturday.

"All in all it was a good start to the season for us," head coach Dennis Saathoff said. "It was unfortunate the quad was the night before the two-day tournament, but the girls responded well and all played very hard. It gave me the opportunity to play some of them in multiple positions and they showed that they can be flexible which can only help us as we progress through the season."

The Raiders opened the season by sweeping their three opponents at the St. Croix Central Quad, including a 25-10, 25-21 victory over the host Panthers in the opening round. They followed that up with a 25-21, 25-16 win over Greenwood and ended with a 25-21, 25-17 victory over Prescott.

Saathoff said the team was led by its four returning letterwinners -- Maddie Drewiske, Stephanie Little, Hannah Wirth and Katrina Zenz.

Little led the team in blocks and tied for second in kills with Zenz while Zenz was third in blocks. Drewiske was third in kills and second in digs while Wirth led the team in service receptions.

The Raiders also received plenty of contributions from their first-year varsity players, as all 12 players saw action. Abby Francis led the team in aces and Serena Schultz was second in blocks while Becca Woitas was first in assists and Anna Wilen was second.

"Kirsten Vorvick also played solid coming off the bench to record multiple kills and blocks," Saathoff said. "Mariah Hallen made the most of her kill attempts by making only one hitting error the entire night. And Hannah Ross ended up fifth in kills and played good left side defense for the night."

Baylie Martin saw time as both setter and defensive specialist.

Friday at the UW-Stout Sprawl, the Raiders went 3-2 in first-day round-robin play. They defeated the Menomonie JV 25-11, 25-10 before losing a tough match to Mosinee 16-25, 26-24, 13-15. They bounced back to defeat Elk Mound 25-15, 25-23, and Athens in a back and forth match 25-27, 26-24, 15-10, before losing to Turtle Lake, 15-25, 21-25.

In Saturday's playoff round, they defeated Barron 25-18, 26-27, 15-8, lost to Athens 21-25, 19-25, and lost their last match to Lakeland 20-25, 26-27. 

Saathoff said the team was once again led by its returning varsity players, with Little and Zenz both outstanding in the middle, leading the team in kills and blocks.

Drewiske was second on the team in digs and third in kills while Wirth led the team in digs, service receptions and service aces.

"Serena Schultz made herself known by coming up with some solid blocks at opportune times against some very good hitters, finishing third in blocks," Saathoff said.

Little earned a spot on the All-Tournament team for her play.

"This was our first time playing in this tournament and I was very pleased with our results and very happy for Steph as she is coming back from an ACL injury that occurred the last week of last season," Saathoff said.

The Raiders will open Big Rivers Conference play at Eau Claire Memorial on Tuesday, Sept. 6, and host the Hudson Invitational Saturday, Sept. 10, beginning at 10 a.m. 

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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