Wildcats win

River Falls’ Taylor Peterson, left, Savannah Saxton, Abi Banitt (2), Brianna Brathol (3) and Morgan Kealy (5) celebrate after scoring the match-clinching point in the Wildcats’ four-set victory over Hudson Thursday night, Sept. 22, in Hudson. Bob Burrows / Star-Observer photo

River Falls’ senior Morgan Kealy said the Wildcat volleyball team felt a little extra pressure to beat Hudson Thursday night.

“Obviously we're rivals, and so that just makes it that much more fun,” she said. “And then we won the jug this year for football and the soccer team beat Hudson. So that kind of sparks something in all the guys and they want to come and kind of rub it in. And so we needed to pull through for them.”

The Wildcats had their hands full with a much-improved Hudson team on the Raiders’ home court, but in the end the Cats were able to celebrate a four-set victory with their classmates.

Wildcat coach Sara Kealy said anytime River Falls play Hudson in any sport it’s a big deal. But she just wanted her girls to focus on playing volleyball.

“All I heard about all week was the jug and the soccer team,” she said. “That’s great, but you still have to go out and play volleyball. So I was just trying to get the kids to focus, and not be online on social media and the back and forth that can happen between the two.”

River Falls controlled the first set for a 25-12 win, but Hudson energized its home crowd by taking the second set 25-16.

Set three was a barnburner with the score tied six times, the last time at 21-21, before back-to-back kills by Brianna Brathol, a block by Taylor Peterson and another Brathol kill gave the Cats a 25-21 win. River Falls jumped out to a 15-5 lead in the fourth set on its way to putting the match away 25-15.

Hudson coach Brittany Young-Sanchez said the Raiders played with great energy, but weren’t able to sustain the momentum against the five-time defending conference champions after winning the second set. It was just the fourth loss in 25 matches for the Raiders this season, and the first-year coach said she’s proud of how far the team has come.

“The improvement they've made just in the last six weeks from our first practice has been astronomical,” she said. “Both in their attitude, and their confidence and ability to work together. So I just think it's going to keep moving up and they're just going to keep getting better. Their attitude tonight was, we'll see you again.”

Morgan Kealy said many of the Wildcat and Raider know each other well from playing club volleyball together, and that added another level to Thursday night’s match.

“We definitely know each other's tendencies,” she said. “So that kind of got hard because we know what the other people like to hit and like to do and their weaknesses and all of that stuff. So it was kind of fun trying to work through that and find different things that work.”

River Falls improved to 18-5 overall, 3-1 in conference play to remain one game behind Chippewa Falls in the Big Rivers standings. Hudson evened its conference mark at 2-2, with its only other loss to first-place Chippewa Falls.

Both teams are off this weekend before returning to action Tuesday, Sept. 27, with River Falls hosting Rice Lake at 7 p.m. and Hudson hosting New Richmond.

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