DEFOREST — In a typical season, the DeForest girls volleyball team might play 40 or 50 matches.
In this abbreviated fall alternate season in the spring, the Norskies played their 13th match Saturday. And it was for a WIAA Division 1 regional championship.
“We haven’t even reached our peak yet,” DeForest coach Scott Schumann said. “I told the girls, `There are some things I haven’t even taught you yet.’’’
Senior outside hitter Natalie Compe led the Norskies with a match-high 20 kills and 5-foot-10 junior outside hitter Reese Yocum had 16 kills as top-seeded DeForest defeated second-seeded Waunakee 25-12, 25-27, 25-11, 28-26 in the regional final.
“I love this team,” Schumann said. “They have so much character. They have so much strong behavioral patterns, as far as positive traits. It’s just fun. It’s nice to be around them. You can see the energy they have. They understand their roles. They understand their responsibilities.”
DeForest topped Waunakee 3-0 during the regular season. But the 5-7 Compe anticipated a tough match against the Warriors, who won a five-set victory over third-seeded Middleton in a regional semifinal earlier Saturday.
“We know it’s playoffs and whoever doesn’t win it’s their last game,” Compe said. “We know a lot of the seniors over there because we played with them in club (volleyball). So, we knew it was going to be an intense match.”
Chloe Larsen, a 6-1 senior outside hitter, led Waunakee (9-3) with eight kills. Warriors senior setter Mariah Best had 18 assists and two service aces.
Compe’s kill gave the Norskies (11-2) a 27-26 lead in the fourth set. Schumann said he wanted Compe to receive a set on the next play, but senior setter Kendall Rauls secured the victory with a winner on a dump shot.
The Norskies needed to rally from 5-0 and 10-3 deficits in the fourth set.
Then late in the set, it was Waunakee’s turn to come back after trailing 23-21. Waunakee earlier showed its resolve in battling back from a 19-14 deficit in the second set and knotting the match at a set apiece.
Waunakee coach Anne Denkert liked the way her team competed after coming off the five-set match with Middleton.
“It shows that it’s not even just the skill, it’s all heart,” said Denkert, whose team received honorable mention recognition in Division 1 in the Wisconsin Volleyball Coaches Association state rankings. “Those kids worked hard. I told them, ‘You have nothing to hang your heads about.’
“I think it’s super easy to stand here and say it was fatigue because I don’t think really think it was. I just think we got into some problems with our serve-receive and we couldn’t execute the kills as well as we wanted to. … But (the Norskies) are tough and they are fresh.”
DeForest, an honorable mention selection in Division 1 in the state poll, had a bye. The grouping originally featured four teams, but Lodi didn’t compete due to COVID-19 protocols late in its season.
The regional champions will be reseeded Sunday. The sectional semifinals and finals are scheduled Tuesday, the state semifinals Thursday and the state title matches April 17 at Kaukauna High School.
Schumann said advancing to the state tournament is DeForest’s goal this season.
“It is a lot shorter season, which is really sad because it’s our senior year,” Compe said. “It just makes you play harder every game because you have less opportunities.”
Waunakee 3, Middleton 2
Waunakee earned a 25-17, 25-16, 24-26, 15-25, 15-8 victory in the semifinal. Middleton (6-7), behind sophomore outside hitter Jordan LaScala’s match-high 23 kills, rallied after losing the first two sets and trailing 24-22 in the third set.
Best took over serving with the Warriors behind 4-3 in the final set and led Waunakee to 10 consecutive winning points and a 13-4 lead.
Larsen, a University of Iowa track and field commit, had 12 kills for Waunakee.
“The fact we pulled back (into the match) as much as we did was incredible,” Middleton coach Madelyn Vogel said.