River Falls celebrates

River Falls’ Rebecca Randleman, left, Taylor Peterson (14), Morgan Kealy (5), Hannah Jarocki (7) and Olivia Doerre (8) celebrate after Kealy delivered the match-clinching kill in the Wildcats’ three-set sweep of Marshfield in a Division 1 volleyball sectional semifinal Thursday night, Oct. 27, in Hudson. Bob Burrows / Star-Observer photo

For the second straight season, River Falls and Chippewa Falls will meet for a berth in the WIAA Division 1 State Volleyball Tournament. Only this time the seeds are reversed.

Second-seeded River Falls advanced to Saturday’s sectional final against top-seeded Chippewa Falls with a three-set sweep of No. 3 seed Marshfield in the sectional semifinals Thursday night in Hudson. Earlier in the night the Cardinals held off fourth-seeded Hudson in five sets to move on.

Saturday night’s match at Eau Claire North will be a rematch of last year’s sectional final, when the Wildcats earned a 3-2 victory over the Cardinals at the No. 1 seed. It will also be a rubber match for this season after the Wildcats defeated the Cardinals 2-1 at the Menomonie Sprawl and the Cardinals taking a 3-1 win in Big Rivers Conference play.

River Falls pulled out the sweep over Marshfield Thursday night despite a wobbly second set that saw the Cats let an early seven point lead slip away and was tied seven times before a Hannah Jarocki ace gave the Cats a 28-26 win.

The Wildcats took the first set 25-20 and outscored the Tigers 7-1 down the stretch in the third set to win 25-19.

River Falls coach Sara Kealy said the Wildcats “fell apart a little bit” in the second set.

“At one point we were hitting negative for a while,” she noted. “You're not gonna win a lot of matches when you're not passing the ball or hitting it in play.”

After taking the first set, the Wildcats jumped out to an 8-1 lead in the second only to have Marshfield come back and tie the score. The Cats trailed three times, including 24-25, before Jarocki’s game-winning ace gave them a 2-0 lead.

Marshfield stole the momentum early in the third set by opening a 6-1 lead, but River Falls tied it at 9-9 on a kill by Morgan Kealy. The score was tied 18-18 before a Brianna Brathol kill gave the Cats the lead for good. A Taylor Peterson ace made it a 20-18 game, and two more kills by Brathol pushed the lead to 24-19 before a reverse tip by Kealy for the kill gace the Cats the three-set sweep.

Coach Kealy said Saturday’s sectional final against Chippewa Falls will be a coin flip.

“They beat us, we beat them. They’re seeded one, we’re seeded two,” she noted. “We know each other but I think our teams are very different.”

Saturday’s sectional final is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Eau Claire North High School.

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