After seeing senior outside hitter Veronica Ewald go down with an ankle injury in a Division 1 regional semifinal Thursday, Oct. 24, Stoughton senior Aspen Alexander wanted to leave it all on the court playing for her classmate and friend.
Alexander and the Vikings did just that, but fell on the road to Monona Grove 25-12, 21-25, 19-25, 25-16, 15-6.
“We had to win for her and push ourselves harder,” Alexander said of Ewald’s injury, “because we know she wanted to be on that court so bad.”
Stoughton (13-25), the No. 10 seed in the Elkhorn Sectional, scrambled in the fifth set trying to defend against tips by the seventh-seeded Silver Eagles.
Digs near the net left the Vikings exposed to hits in the back row and on the pins. Monona Grove jumped out to a 6-1 lead after three Stoughton errors, and led 10-2 after an ace by Alyssa Smith.
The Vikings scored four straight points to cut its deficit in half down 12-6, but the Silver Eagles closed the match with three straight points.
Stoughton played without junior setter Greta Nashold in the two teams’ first meeting this season, as the Silver Eagles won in a sweep on Sept. 5.
“Our girls were hungry,” Stoughton coach Rachael Gierhart said. “The girls wanted a rematch and showed MG what we had.”
Monona Grove rolled to a first-set victory in the first set, but the Vikings won a see-saw second set to tie the match. Alexander gave the Vikings a spark with her digging and defensive coverage, as she finished with a team-high 28 digs and two aces.
“Aspen was definitely the fire that we needed in the second set, especially after Veronica went down,” Gierhart said. “She dug really deep.”
Ewald went down on a spike attempt in the middle of the second set, and the Vikings fell behind 15-14 after three lifts. Stoughton’s Amber Hodkiewicz had a stuff block to tie the set at 17, and the Vikings scored eight of the final 12 points to tie the match at a set apiece.
Stoughton junior Piper Jensen had eight straight service points and two aces to start the third set.
The Silver Eagles rallied by winning the next seven points. Senior middle blocker Riley Royston and Paige Schuttemeier each had key kills to extend the Vikings’ lead to 18-13.
“I think our team plays best when we are having fun and playing scrappy,” Alexander said. “When we get those scrappy plays and someone puts it away, it motivates us even more. It makes us want to play even harder.”
Stoughton jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the fourth set after kills by Hodkiewicz and senior Kat Eugster. Monona Grove rallied to take an 11-10 lead, and battled to force the decisive fifth set.
“I think we showed them what Stoughton volleyball is,” Alexander said. “We proved that we can be a very good team at times.”