The Mercer volleyball team checked off many boxes on their way to a historic season full of memorable wins and players.
The Tigers finished first in the Indianhead conference with a 31-6 record, 9-0 in conference.
You can’t look overlook the win at home against Washburn on Oct. 1. From day one, the Tigers had this game circled on their calendar and they were able to win 3-0 in dominant fashion.
“Our first Washburn match was outstanding,” coach Robyn Schoeneman said. “We played really good volleyball and it showed. Our wins over Washburn have been few and far between in my career. Riding that wave was a lot of fun.”
Another goal of these Tigers took place in Ironwood and Hurley on Oct. 5. Their goal was to win a tournament by the end of the season, and they did just that. They won the Wisconsin/Michigan Border tournament defeating Lake Linden-Hubbel for the tournament victory. The Tigers went undefeated on the day and did not lose a set.
“We played our best match of the season that day against Three Lakes,” coach Schoeneman said. “It showed the girls what we were capable of and proved we could play nearly flawless. It was important for them to know they could play that well heading into postseason play.”
With those boxes checked off, the Tigers wanted to win conference.
The Tigers were undefeated headed into their final conference game of the season on Senior/Parents’ Night on Oct. 16 against Ironwood. The Tigers continued their historic season and won 3-0 to win the Indianhead conference.
“The conference title often eludes us, so winning that title was huge,” Schoeneman said.
The undefeated conference season champs earned a No. 1 overall seed for the WIAA?playoffs. That was another goal of the team’s, forcing teams to come to their building.
“Having the community behind us has been absolutely huge,” coach Schoeneman said. “Being able to make history and host the first ever sectional game on our home court was one of the greatest moments for me as a coach.”
After a bye, the Tigers won their first two games easy, helping them to their fourth straight regional championship.
“Regionals for the fourth year in a row was awesome,” coach Schoeneman said. “Some teams can only dream of winning it once. We have been able to accomplish this four times in a row.”
All of that set up another Washburn-Mercer game Halloween night in Mercer. The winner would go to the sectional final. The Castle Guards were raring to go and won 3-1, winning three straight sets after Mercer took the first.
A couple of other fun achievements came by individual players. Aubrey Schoeneman registered her 1,000th career kill Sept. 20 at home against Solon Springs.
Then, Ella Torkelson recorded her 2,000th assist at the Northwestern “Zosel” Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 28 in Maple.
“Those are huge milestones for a volleyball player. It was only fitting that they accomplished these goals within a few week of each other,” coach Schoeneman said.
Another reason this season was so great came because of the senior class, a class which has been playing together for a long time.
Haley Allen-Rodriguez, Aubrey Schoeneman, Torkelson, Jessica Klopatek, Zoe Botes, Ava Barton and Molly Hohner started playing together in the third-fourth grade.
“I am so proud of their commitment,” coach Schoeneman said. “Their play became somewhat magical at times — like they all knew what the other was thinking.”
Aubrey Schoeneman became one of the strongest outside hitters in the conference. She finished points when the Tigers needed her most.
Torkelson passed the ball effectively and set up the Tigers’ attackers. Her strength in passing set up many kills.
You can’t pass without a dig. Sisters Ava and Samantha Barton are responsible for many digs and bumps, keeping the ball alive any way they could. Ava Barton also had numerous kills on the season.
Hohner joined them in the back to create a back line that set up the Tigers’ attackers.
“They had a lot of nice digs all season. I believe that this back row was the strongest back row I have ever coached,” coach Schoeneman said. “Very little got through them and their fearless back row play carried us many times.”
Other attackers included Botes, Jessica Klopatek and KD Knipp. They contributed to Tiger wins and gave coach Schoeneman options to attack with.
“This year it was so important for all of our front row players to be an offensive threat. Having multiple hitters that could put the ball down allowed us to run many different options,” coach Schoeneman said.
Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]