ASHWAUBENON — Fueled by a hot finish to the season, the Sun Prairie girls volleyball team soared into its second consecutive state appearance and third in the past four years.
And eighth-seeded Sun Prairie showed it was undaunted in its WIAA Division 1 quarterfinal against top-seeded and top-ranked Hartland Arrowhead on Thursday night at the Resch Center.
The Cardinals seized the first set and pushed the hard-hitting Warhawks to the limit in the fourth set before Arrowhead claimed a 22-25, 25-14, 25-20, 27-25 victory.
“We battled and that’s what we wanted to do when we came in,” Sun Prairie coach T.J. Rantala said. “Everybody (said), `Oh, we’re the eighth seed vs. the one seed.’ I couldn’t be more proud. On paper, that should have been a blowout, and it definitely wasn’t. I’m very proud how the girls came out tonight and battled for every single point. You hate to end it this way, but a lot of good things happened.”
Payton Addink, a 6-foot-1 junior outside hitter, led the Cardinals with 13 kills. Big Eight Conference player of the year Karlie “K.J.” McNabb added 12 kills for Sun Prairie (41-8), which had its 12-match winning streak snapped.
“I don’t think we were scared,” said McNabb, a Loyola (Illinois) commit. “We know a lot of their players. … We played our game and we fought. I think we proved ourselves, for sure. Everyone would say, `Oh, you guys are going to lose by a lot.’ We came out and we won the first set and I think they were nervous. They were nervous to play us after that.
“They stepped up, but I think we proved we deserved to be here. We are one of the best teams in the state whether we win that game or not. I’m really happy with how we played.”
Aubrey Hamilton, a 6-2 senior outside hitter who’s committed to Notre Dame, had a match-high 26 kills for Classic Eight Conference champion Arrowhead (39-3), which advanced to the semifinals for the first time in three state trips. Arrowhead will meet fourth-seeded and two-time defending champion Burlington (38-4) in a semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“There is a reason people know her name in the state of Wisconsin,” Rantala said about Hamilton. “She’s a phenomenal player.”
The Cardinals recorded 10 blocks against the Warhawks, whose front-row players also included 6-1 Elise Schneider (12 kills), 6-3 Lindsay Krznarich and 6-3 Monica LaFleur.
“It’s really hard (to block), with good players like (Hamilton),’’ said Sun Prairie senior Kirsten Anderson, a 5-10 senior middle blocker who had a match-high four blocks (coming off eight block assists). “You think you are closing the block. You think you are set up with her perfectly and then she hits around you, and it’s frustrating. You just have to adjust.”
The Cardinals rallied from a 24-20 deficit in the fourth set, tying the match at 24.
A kill by Hamilton gave the Warhawks a 25-24 lead. But Anderson and senior Mia Livingston combined to block Hamilton — knotting the match at 25. Hamilton came through with another kill and the match ended when Minnesota-Duluth recruit Addink’s kill attempt hit the antenna.
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“I am very comfortable (being the go-to hitter) because I know my team has my back and they believe in me, and they will set me whenever and will trust me,” said Hamilton, whose mother, Heidi (Bunek) Hamilton, was a standout prep basketball player at Milwaukee Pius XI.
Sun Prairie limited Arrowhead to .088 hitting in the first set, but the Warhawks bounced back — hitting .480 in the second set. Arrowhead coach Janelle Hobbs said her team was nervous and played tight in the first set, and just needed to relax and enjoy the state experience after that.
“They played a pretty flawless second set and it was a couple bad runs that killed us,” Rantala said. “But we were able to get some momentum back in the third and the fourth (sets).”
Arrowhead also served tough in the match, totaling 14 aces — led by sophomore Madeline Dohogne (five aces) and junior Jade Stefan (four).
“(Sun Prairie) just played very consistent,” Hobbs said. “They weren’t making a ton of errors. They kept a lot of balls in play. So, they did a nice job, and they kept fighting until the end.”
Hartland Arrowhead 22 25 25 27
Sun Prairie 25 14 20 25
HARTLAND ARROWHEAD (leaders) — Kills (56): Hamilton 26, Schneider 12. Assists (54): Stefan 47. Blocks (5): Krznarich 2.5, LaFleur 2. Aces (14): Dohogne 5, Stefan 4. Digs (50): Hamilton 16, Larson 15.
SUN PRAIRIE — Kills (40): Addink 13, McNabb 12. Assists (40): Halbleib 35. Blocks (10): Anderson 4, McNabb 1.5, Halbleib 1.5. Aces (2): McNabb 1, Mickelson 1. Digs (43): Mickelson 10, McNabb 9, Addink 9. Burlington 3, Union Grove 2
The two-time defending state champion Demons (38-4) pulled out a 25-22, 20-25, 21-25, 25-12, 15-10 victory over the Broncos (41-6) in a battle of Southern Lakes Conference foes. A kill by Morgan Klein ended the match and gave her 18 on the night, one behind team leader Emily Alan. Olivia Dir had 20 kills and 17 digs for Union Grove.
Wales Kettle Moraine 2
The second-seeded Raccoons, last year’s runners-up, beat the Lasers 25-22, 25-17, 24-26, 14-25, 15-9 in a meeting of Classic Eight Conference rivals. Taylor Alden had two kills and a block kill to score the final three points for Oconomowoc (38-3). Alden finished with 33 assists, 10 kills, 14 digs and two service aces. Kettle Moraine (29-14) got 18 kills from Hailey Grocholski.
River Falls 3, Appleton North 0
The third-seeded Wildcats (38-6) swept the Lightning (32-12) by scores of 25-21, 25-12, 25-23, as Halle Olson had 14 kills and 12 digs and Maddi Kealy had 30 assists. Brianna Cantrell had 10 kills for North.