OREGON — Victories in its first three matches placed the Watertown girls volleyball team in the championship bracket and in an enviable position during Saturday’s Badger South Conference tournament.
The only downside was a 2½-hour wait for the Goslings’ finals opponent to be determined in the double-elimination tournament at Oregon High School.
While a few of her Watertown teammates took power naps during their downtime, 5-foot-10 senior middle blocker Lauren Burd chose to watch the matches and analyze tendencies of potential foes.
After all, she didn’t have years of familiarity with the teams, as Watertown is new to the Badger this season. The Wisconsin Little Ten Conference was dissolved by WIAA realignment.
“It’s definitely been different,” Burd said. “It’s been fun traveling to new places, playing new teams and experiencing a new conference.”
After winning the dual season with a 7-0 record, the Badger South’s new kid on the block also left with the championship hardware.
Top-seeded Watertown (32-10) added to its rich volleyball tradition, compiling a 4-0 record and defeating second-seeded Milton 25-21, 28-26 in the championship match.
“We have been working so hard for the conference title,” said Burd, who had nine kills in the final.
“It was our goal before the season to win conference, and we finally did it. It feels so good.”
The Goslings defeated eighth-seeded Monroe and fifth-seeded Stoughton before topping Milton twice en route to the championship. Watertown rallied from an 8-3 deficit in the first set of the final against the Red Hawks (32-9).
“Overall, we played really well,” Watertown coach Melissa Hahn said. “After waiting for 2½ hours, we started more slowly than we would have liked.”
Burd scored two consecutive kills, giving the Goslings a 20-19 lead, and was serving when Watertown tallied three unanswered points for a 24-20 advantage. Watertown rallied from a 16-11 deficit in the second set behind 5-11 senior outside hitter Amanda Feder and Burd, whose block closed out the match at 28-26. Brianne Korducki, a 5-11 junior middle blocker, led the Goslings with 10 kills.
“We were expecting good competition in the Badger South,” said Hahn, whose team faced stiff competition in the Little Ten. “We set our goal to be conference champs. The girls put in a lot of hard work.”
Milton coach Wayne Hansen, whose team was 6-1 in the dual season, believed he had a team that could contend for the league title this year. Then, Watertown arrived on the scene.
“Watertown has a great tradition,” Hansen said, adding with a laugh, “They took away my thunder this year.”
The Red Hawks have formidable hitters, including junior outside hitter Ashley Didelot (who led Milton with 10 kills in the final), junior outside hitter Chloe Buescher and junior middle hitter Courtney Knutson.
The Red Hawks defeated seventh-seeded and host Oregon in the first round, and then rallied for a three-set victory over sixth-seeded Monona Grove. After falling to Watertown in the third round, Milton rebounded with a 25-27, 28-26, 15-8 victory over fourth-seeded Madison Edgewood before facing Watertown again.
“I thought we battled well,” Hansen said. “I’d rather lose and play our best out there than lay an egg.
“Watertown is tough. It was nice to be pushed like that before regionals. I’ve got a good team. We’re still young.’’
Edgewood (24-11) showed resiliency, winning three matches in the consolation bracket after losing to Stoughton in three sets in an opening-round match.
Crusaders coach Steve Bleier said his team has come a long way in the last month and performed well despite missing 6-0 freshman Ella Foti (finger injury) and continuing to use 6-0 Kendra Lee, a U.S. Naval Academy volleyball recruit, at libero due to foot trouble.
Bleier said Milton’s Buescher, Didelot and Knutson “are really good athletes and for us to be able to compete the way we did, I’m really proud of that. Watertown is disciplined on the court and, like Milton, Watertown has some good terminators.”
Watertown 25 28
Milton 21 26
Watertown (leaders) — Kills: Korducki 10. Blocks: Burd 3, Schauer 3. Assists: Schauer 27. Digs: Dettmann 19. Aces: Burd 1, Feder 1.
Milton (leaders) — Kills: Didelot 10. Blocks: Elliott 2. Assists: Martin 9. Digs: Buescher 13. Aces: Sullivan 1.