Rebels roll into quarters with sweep of AGWSR

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • Gladbrook-Reinbeck freshman Saari Kuehl (4) goes up for a kill against AGWSR defenders Taryan Barrick (10) and Mandi Willems (2) during the third set of the Rebels sweep of the Cougars on Tuesday.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • Gladbrook-Reinbeck freshman Saari Kuehl (4) goes up for a kill against AGWSR defenders Taryan Barrick (10) and Mandi Willems (2) during the third set of the Rebels sweep of the Cougars on Tuesday.

REINBECK — NICL West Division foes Gladbrook-Reinbeck and AGWSR met up for one final meeting on Tuesday night as the Rebels hosted the Cougars for the first round of the Class 1A Region 3 tournament.

Just like the last time the two teams faced off, G-R found itself in the winner’s circle, sweeping AGWSR in three sets, 25-13, 25-8, 25-21.

Despite a slow start to both the second and third sets, the Rebels (23-9) were able to turn things around and come out on top, something head coach Paula Kelley said is the team’s specialty.

“That’s kind of typical for us this year, we sometimes seem to have a slow start in particular games but we don’t panic, we get back into our routine, we might miss a couple here and there but we get back in our routine and play our game on our side of the net,” Kelley said after her team advanced to the regional quarterfinals. “I didn’t call a timeout because the kids come back, they’ve done it all year long and I am very confident in their skills to be able to do that.”

G-R senior setter Maddie Frischmeyer, who finished with a match-high 22 assists on the night, said the team was clicking on Tuesday evening better than it has been in a long time.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • Members of the Gladbrook-Reinbeck volleyball team gather to celebrate after scoring a point in the first set of the Rebels’ three-set sweep of AGWSR in the first round of the regional playoffs on Tuesday.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • Members of the Gladbrook-Reinbeck volleyball team gather to celebrate after scoring a point in the first set of the Rebels’ three-set sweep of AGWSR in the first round of the regional playoffs on Tuesday.

“I thought everything was probably the best it’s been for a while,” she said. “We started off really slow, but we all knew this was our last home game so we had to bring it out and mix it up and everything, so I think everybody did as well as they could have tonight and I am really proud of our team.”

No set better represents that team chemistry better than the second, as the Rebels jumped out to a 21-2 lead at one point before winning the frame 25-8. One reason G-R was so dominant in the second was some masterful play at the net by players like Meriah Wittgreve and Saari Kuehl, who both had a solo block and an assist in the win, and Kelley said the net play wasn’t the only area her girls were rocking in the win.

“Our blocking was really solid today. Our hitting also was because our setting was, and our setting was because our passing was,” Kelley said. “Our passing was really good today, which allowed my setter to do a fantastic job finding everybody on the net and moving the ball around.”

At the end of the second set and beginning of the third, the Cougars (9-19) showed they weren’t done fighting. AGWSR finished the second on a 6-4 run then opened up the third set up by as much as five midway through.

Cougars head coach Stacy Drake said how her girls played during that stretch was much more representative of the work they’ve put in this season.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

“In our huddle at the beginning of the third set, they said ‘this is not our volleyball at all.’ We had been playing such better volleyball than we played those first two sets, and they knew that,” Drake said. “All of them in there said ‘we need to start competing, we need to play like we can play,’ and I think that kind of resonated when the seniors started to take charge and all of them started to move their feet and talk on the court.”

On the other side of the net, the Rebels had to battle from behind essentially the entire third set to close out AGWSR, and Frischmeyer said there was never any time where the girls felt down about not leading throughout the set.

“We knew that we had to finish, it was go time. We knew that even when someone messed up we had to bring the team back up,” she said. “That’s a really big thing we’ve been working on in practice, when someone gets down or messes up you are right back in it. You have to figure yourself out and know ‘hey I messed up but I have to move on,’ so that was a big part of it, just moving on and getting to the next round.”

Offensively for G-R, senior Paige Eiffler wrapped up her home career by leading in kills with nine, followed by Kuehl with eight. Senior Megan Swanson was perfect in service, going 21-for-21 with five three aces and serving much of the blowout second set, while Eiffler also had three aces.

AGWSR was led by freshman Taylor Sperfslage offensively with five kills, while senior Mandy Willems had nine assists. Sophomore Rachel Sicard had nine digs defensively for the Cougars, followed by Willems, Sperfslage and freshman MaKenna Kuper with eight.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

Young players have stepped up and played well for AGWSR all season, as the statistics show, and Drake said that will just be a boon to her squad moving forward into the offseason.

“We are going to build off the end of our season, they have shown improvement all season long and we talked to them about keeping working in the offseason and keep building that,” Drake said. “We have some strength in our freshman class and there are even more freshmen that will help us later on. We have such young talent in there that in the next three years we will be a pretty good team I think.”

The Rebels just get a little bit of time to celebrate their playoff victory, as they have to get ready to face one of their toughest foes yet in No. 1 Janesville for the second round. Kelley said against the Wildcats her girls have to minimize their personal mistakes and force Janesville to score on them.

“Unforced errors is what we’ve been really working on the last couple of weeks, cleaning that up and not making the mistakes on our side and making the other team earn their points,” she said. “This week we have to really push cleaning that up and making sure we don’t make the mistakes on our side.”

That regional quarterfinal match between G-R and Janesville will tip off at 7 p.m in Janesville on Monday.