Verona’s winning streak reached 19 before Lake Mills defeated the Wildcats in two sets at the Kettle Moraine Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 28.
Verona defeated Whitewater and Merrill at Kettle Moraine, and also picked up a Big Eight Conference road win over Sun Prairie on Thursday, Sept. 26.
Kettle Moraine Invitational
The Wildcats cruised past Whitewater (25-15, 25-8) and Merrill (25-13, 25-11) before falling to Lake Mills 29-27, 25-19.
Jordan Armstrong racked up 46 total assists, two blocks against Merrill and two aces against Lake Mills. Amelia Hust had 27 total digs. Maddy Kelley added seven kills and three blocks against Lake Mills to go with six kills and two blocks against Merrill.
Claudia Bobb slammed seven kills and Rachel Karnosky served three aces against Whitewater.
Delaney McIntosh had four aces against Merrill. Rachel Witthuhn picked up three blocks against Lake Mills.
Verona def. Sun Prairie 25-18, 25-14, 21-25, 25-18
The Wildcats took sole possession of first place in the Big Eight with their victory over the Cardinals.
Sun Prairie came into the match ranked No. 10 in Division 1 in the latest Wisconsin Volleyball Coaches Association Poll. Verona, on the other hand, have not received honorable mention in the Division 1 poll this season, and were well aware of their opponent’s ranking.
“At first, it was nerve-wracking being on their home court,” Kelley said. “But I think we did a good job responding and getting all of our players involved.”
Kelley had a match-high five blocks against a Sun Prairie squad with a plethora of offensive weapons.
“We executed our game plan,” Verona coach Jillian Bauer said. “Sun Prairie is an athletic, pin-heavy team right now, and KJ (McNabb) is their main attacker. She’s going to get her kills, but we were able to slow her down with the block and defend behind that.”
Verona took advantage of five Sun Prairie service errors in the fourth set. A hitting error by the Cardinals and back-to-back aces by Hust gave the Wildcats a 7-4 lead.
Verona scored five straight points to go up 12-6, as Kelley recorded a stuff block and a kill, Karnosky served an ace, and Armstrong had a tip kill during the stretch.
The Wildcats ripped off three straight points to make it 15-7, but the Cardinals staged a 4-1 run. Verona responded with a 3-1 run — capped by a Megan Touchett kill — and traded points until the end of the match.
The teams traded points to begin the match before Verona seized control with a 3-0 run to go up 11-8. The Wildcats ripped off two more 3-0 runs to increase their lead, but the Cardinals stormed back with a 5-1 run.
Verona called timeout and came back with a 6-2 stretch that included two aces and a tip kill by Bobb. Touchett’s kill from the right side capped the first set.
Sun Prairie jumped ahead 4-0 in the second set, but Verona scored eight of the next 10 points to take the lead. McIntosh slammed three kills to make it 19-12, and the Wildcats closed the set with two 3-0 runs.
Verona used a 4-2 run to tie the third set at 6. Sun Prairie scored 10 of the next 13 points.
The Wildcats trimmed their deficit to 19-17 after kills by Touchett and Armstrong and an ace by Hust, but the Cardinals hung on.
Hust finished with a match-high 19 digs, thanks in large part to her positioning and willingness to take on Sun Prairie’s hitters.
“It’s all about reading the ball, stepping in and being confident,” Hust said. “The adrenaline definitely helps, too.”
Bobb slammed a match-high 14 kills, while Armstrong dished out a match-high 35 assists. Bobb and Karnosky added three aces apiece.
Verona’s victory came almost a year after the Cardinals came back from a two-set deficit to beat the Wildcats on their home court.
“We’ve been working hard to build our mental toughness, and this was a step in the right direction,” Bauer said. “We’ll see Sun Prairie again, whether it’s at the conference tournament or in sectionals.”