Between the season-opening Marshfield Quad Tuesday, Aug. 21, and the two-day Menomonie Sprawl Friday and Saturday, Aug. 24-25, the Raider volleyball team had a good opportunity to see what it does well and what it needs to work on moving forward.
And it saw plenty of both.
After going 1-2 in Marshfield, the Raiders won all four of their matches on the first day of the Menomonie Sprawl Friday to earn a spot in the Gold Bracket for Saturday's playoffs. Unfortunately, the inconsistency bug hit and the Raiders lost all three matches in three sets but still finished in a respectable eighth place.
"Even though our record wasn't great on Saturday we did some good things with our play," head coach Dennis Saathoff said. "Our middle hitters, Shay Wassman and Noelle Kiltie, were really getting their timing down and they both hit right around the .300 mark, and they both were holding the middle blockers on the other side of the net getting our outside hitters some great one-on-one opportunities. Our setters, Kaitlyn Zignego and Liz Collinson, were distributing the sets well with most of our hitters getting 24 to 38 attack chances throughout the day through all three positions, which makes for a well balanced attack."
The Raiders opened the tournament on Friday by beating Barron 25-22, 25-19; North Crawford 25-20, 25-21; Eau Claire Regis 25-18, 25-21 and Lakeland 25-6, 25-19 in round-robin play to earn a spot in Saturday's Gold Bracket.
Saathoff said Saturday's theme was inconsistency, with the Raiders winning the first set in all three of their matches only to lose to Colfax 25-20, 15-25, 17-19; Wausau West 25-18, 19-5, 11-15 and Oshkosh West 25-18, 19-25, 8-15.
"We missed seven serves (against Colfax) and did not have a single hitter with a positive attack percentage," he noted. "In the last set (against Oshkosh West) we gave up five service aces and recorded none, while through the first two sets we were even with them in aces."
Saathoff said the Raiders displayed some jitters in their first match of the season against Antigo at the Marshfield Quad, losing 23-25, 24-26 mostly due to missing 13 serves. But they bounced back with a 25-12, 25-10 victory over host Marshfield.
"We played much more relaxed in this match, recording 12 service aces against only five errors, and we only had nine total attack errors," Saathoff said. "Additionally we never made a service reception error in the match so we were running our offense very well."
Hudson ended the day with a tough 21-25, 25-22, 13-15 loss to Wausau Newman Catholic.
"As the scores indicate this was a close match all the time, with neither team getting any big runs of points," Saathoff noted. "We were much quicker in our middle attack than they were, but we made too many other unforced hitting errors in the middle of the third set and they were able to hold the necessary two point margin to the end."
Wassman and Sara Hoffman recorded 18 kills each at the quad and Kiltie and Wassmann had two blocks each. Collinson put up 25 set assists and 12 service aces and Zignego had 29 assists and nine aces while libero Olivia Goulette recorded 33 digs. Defensive specialist Ariana Zins didn't have as many digs, but she had a perfect day with no service error receptions.
The Raiders have this week off before opening Big Rivers Conference play at River Falls Thursday, Sept. 6. They'll host the 8-team Hudson Invitational Saturday, Sept. 8, at the middle and high school gyms.