MIDDLETON — The Oregon girls volleyball team received another positive jolt of confidence Saturday.
The Panthers, already buoyed by a strong start in Badger South Conference play, placed second in the 15-team Cardinal Invitational — the top finish by an area team.
Holmen rallied for a 17-25, 25-17, 15-8 victory over Oregon in the Gold Bracket championship match at Kromrey Middle School.
The tournament was shifted to two gyms at Kromrey due to water damage to the Middleton High School gym floor, which occurred during recent flooding in the area.
Oregon (16-4), after winning its pool with a 3-0 record, advanced to the final with a 25-18, 18-25, 15-11 victory over Wisconsin Heights in the quarterfinal round and a 25-22, 25-17 victory over Germantown in the semifinals.
“I thought we played very well,” Oregon senior setter Erin Flanagan said. “I thought our energy at the end of (the match against) Germantown was the best I’ve ever seen it. We didn’t think we were going to win it coming in. At least, I think I had some doubts in my head. It’s such a good group of girls. We have been playing together for a while. We know we all have each other’s backs and we know if we really want to do something, we can do it.”
Senior Becca Pearson led Oregon with eight kills in the championship match, while senior Erin Wriedt had three blocks and senior Emily Konop totaled 21 digs. Flanagan, who led the Panthers with 19 assists and three service aces, said Oregon’s tournament performance boosts its confidence.
“I am very, very pleased with how they played,” Oregon coach Katie Heitz said. “They came out ready to play today. I think we played a little bit better than anybody was expecting us to play. I know this team is capable of playing at this level. It’s just what team shows up that night. I think we came out ready to play to our abilities today.”
Oregon, which won the Belleville tournament earlier this season, is 3-1 in Badger South play, which already has surpassed last year’s league win total of two, Heitz said. Serving — and, in turn, putting stress on the other team’s passers — has been a team strength, as has the play of Oregon’s seniors.
“Pick a night and a different senior has been stepping up,” said Heitz, in her fourth season as coach. “It’s been great in that regard.”
That includes Flanagan.
“She’s the pulse of our team, our quarterback on the court,” Heitz said. “The team looks to her as a leader. She is very steady in the way she plays.”
Holmen, Oregon, Germantown and Madison Edgewood, another Badger South team, were pool winners. Holmen advanced to the final with a 25-22, 25-22 semifinal victory over Edgewood, led by first-year coach Eliza Zwettler.
Oregon, led by the hitting of Pearson, claimed the first set, but Holmen (22-2) rallied with improved serving, blocking and defense.
“For us, it was just ball control and really just keeping everything in play,” said Holmen coach Sammi Maier, whose team was led by senior outside hitter McKenzie Winker and junior setter Lynsey Anderson. “The girls were getting touches on balls and really that’s the name of the game: Can you stay in the game the longest?”
The Panthers struggled passing against the Vikings’ tough serving as the match progressed.
“We stopped passing the ball to the target,” Heitz said. “Then we can’t use our hitters. They started serving really aggressively and took the momentum away.”
Germantown claimed third place, pulling out a 27-25, 25-20 victory over Edgewood.
Germantown reached the semifinals with a 25-23, 25-18 victory over host Middleton in a quarterfinal. Holmen defeated Jefferson 25-17, 25-17 and Edgewood topped Mount Horeb 25-16, 22-25, 15-10 in other quarterfinal matches.
“Coming to Madison, we knew it would be really tough competition,” Maier said. “I know the talent we have on our team. I knew what the girls were capable of. Coming to this type of tournament means a lot to them and it shows our skill level and the talent we have on the team this year.”