Both the Mercer volleyball and Mercer-Butternut football teams continued to play conference opponents as the season winds down.
The Tigers continue to play well in conference. They defeated Hurley 3-0 (25-11, 25-14, 25-17) Thursday, Oct. 10 in Hurley.
Then, the Tigers defeated Butternut 3-0 (25-11, 25-16, 25-15) Tuesday in Butternut.
The Pioneers lost to Shell Lake 72-0 Saturday in Mercer.
The Tigers couldn’t have asked for a better start in Butternut. They started the match on a 14-0 run that included five aces from Ava Barton.
“Ava had seven aces tonight,” coach Robyn Schoeneman said. “She really gets us on a roll at the beginning with her serve and it was a good way to start off.”
Also included within that run were three kills by Aubrey Schoeneman. The Tigers were firing on all cylinders.
A little bit later, Aubrey Schoeneman had the dig, followed by a Ella Torkelson assist to Jessica Klopatek for the kill. Tigers led 16-5 in the first set.
Butternut did go on a little run. They outscored the Tigers 8-3, finishing off rallies for points. The Tigers still led 17-8.
The next point went to the Tigers. KD Knipp took advantage of a free ball and slammed it home for a point. Jessica Klopatek followed that up with an ace of her own.
“We’ve been working really hard on aggression, aggressiveness,” coach Schoeneman said. “Instead of playing complacent and safe, now’s the time where we gotta start really taking some swings at the ball.”
Knipp powered down two more kills, both assisted by Torkelson to put the Tigers up 23-10. Three set points later, they closed it out.
Butternut became more controlled in set two, not letting the match get too out of hand. The Tigers still took the first point. Defensive specialist Molly Hohner took the dig, Ava Barton passed it and Zoe Botes finished it for the point.
Not only did Ava Barton pass and pile up aces, she also attacked with success. Off another Torkelson pass, Ava Barton finished with a kill. Tigers led 7-3 early.
Butternut kept hanging around until Sally Begalle recored her first kill of the evening, dug up by Schoeneman and passed by Torkelson.
“We’ve been trying to get a lot of people involved in our offense,” coach Schoeneman said. “We were trying to run some things that we’ve been working on in practice and it was a train wreck a few times. But we did execute a few which was good.”
With Butternut trailing by just three, Aubrey Schoeneman powered down two kills to put the momentum back on the Tigers’ side. They led 17-12.
Set two remained close until the Tigers pulled away at the end, finishing on a 8-2 run. Jessica Klopatek won the 25th point with an ace.
In set three, the Tigers went up 11-2 early. Torkelson continued to make plays, although this time it was not her passing. Torkelson tipped one over for a point and then followed that up with an ace.
Samantha Barton continued to chase down and dig up serves throughout the night. One of her digs led to a Aubrey Schoeneman kill. Samantha Barton also had an ace.
Butternut started to close the gap and went on a small 4-2 run, but it would not be enough.
Haley Allen got in the action and recorded an ace. After that, Botes finished two more attacks for points, one dug up by Hohner, the other Samantha Barton.
The final point of the evening came on a sister connection. Samantha Barton dug it up, Torkelson made another great set and Ava Barton finished it for the kill.
“We keep rolling,” coach Schoeneman said. “We got three down, one to go for the conference championship.”
On Thursday, Oct. 10, the Tigers defeated Hurley 3-0 (25-11, 25-14, 25-17).
“We won the match, however it was not our best play. It was homecoming week and everything under the sun was a distraction,” coach Schoeneman said. “I feel very fortunate to have gotten out of there with a win. I guess there is something to be said about winning ugly — the girls pushed through it and overcame some adversity which is important this time of year.”
Their next game came Wednesday, Oct. 16 at home against Ironwood. With a win, the Tigers would become Indianhead conference champions.
“We’re ready, we’re pumped. It’s our senior night, its our pink night, its our parents night,” coach Schoeneman said. “We’re going to have a lot of celebration going on. Hopefully we’ll be celebrating a conference championship.”
Up next is the first round of regional play on Tuesday, Oct. 22.
The Shell Lake Lakers put up a complete performance that starts with coaching and culture.
“They’re well coached, their kids have bought in to a physical brand of football, not just Saturday but the entire season,” coach Matt Schoeneman said.
But there were some positives to take away from the game, starting with senior Kobe Hiller.
“Definitely, I want to acknowledge Kobe Hiller our senior, really stepped up and fought and did his best the entire game,” Schoeneman said. “Him, his attitude and his performance is something special. Other good performances came from Devin Losh and Tyler Erno.”
The season can end on a high note. Up next, the Pioneers take on Mellen, a team similar to them.
“Mellen is a lot like us,” Schoeneman said. “They have beaten the same teams we have beaten. It’s almost the same type of team we are.”
Kickoff between the Pioneers and Mellen is set for Saturday, Oct. 19 starting at 1 p.m. at Mellen High School.
Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]