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Volleyball: Owls snatch invite title from Goslings

September 18, 2018

An old nemesis spoiled the party on Saturday afternoon at WHS.

Watertown’s volleyball team had won two invitational titles this season and was looking to add a third — its own — to the list.

The Goslings were in position to claim it, but lost leads in the first and third sets of the title match of the Watertown Invitational, allowing Slinger to pull out a 25-22, 12-25, 15-11 victory.

Slinger wasn’t much of a rival for the Goslings when the two teams played in the now-defunct Wisconsin Little Ten Conference. Watertown routinely beat Slinger over their dozen years in the same league.

But the Owls have been building up their program for the last several years, and when former Watertown athletic director and current Slinger AD Mike Daniels was in the market for a new coach, who should be available but former West Bend East coach Colleen Haase. Watertown and West Bend East battled for league supremacy for years when Haase was coaching the Suns. The most notable matchup came in the 2007 season, when the Goslings swept the Suns for the Division 1 state championship.

“I took a year off and I came back,” Haase said. “The former coach that was there, they really enjoyed her, but they were looking for someone with experience. So when I found out about it, I talked to the AD, went to the interview and saw a program that’s been building for a while and I felt like I was ready to step in.”

Watertown held a 21-15 lead in the first set against Slinger, but the Owls forced a side out and junior libero Erin Gillen stepped to the service line and delivered a eight-point run that knocked the Goslings completely out of system. She finally put a serve just long, but the Owls won the next point to take the set when a questionable touch was called on a Slinger swing that went long.

“(Gillen) definitely brought us back in it,” Haase said. “I don’t know if she missed (that last one) or not, but she got done with her serve receive and I just said, ‘Great run.’ She got us back in that game and that was just huge for us. Any time we can run together a string of serves, you know that’s huge for any team.”

Watertown responded with its most dominating set of the day to win by 13 and force a deciding third set. Junior outside hitter Samantha Gray and sophomore right side Alayna Westenberg powered their swings through some big Slinger blockers for points, and senior middle and outside hitter Brianne Korducki found holes and put balls away at the pace this team is accustomed to.

The Goslings opened the third set with a 7-4 lead and a kill by junior setter Isabelle Schauer had the Goslings in front 10-8. But the Owls closed the match by scoring seven of the last eight points.

Watertown had a hitting error and a net violation, allowing the Owls to tie it at 10-10. A kill by freshman outside hitter Elise Gillen put Slinger in front 11-10 and the Owls would not trail again. The Goslings got a cross court kill from senior outside hitter Allie Stair to trim Slinger’s lead to 13-11, but the Goslings gave away three of the last four points on a hitting error and two violations.

Slinger made the most of its tall blockers and did enough things well at the service line and in court coverage to overcome Watertown’s firepower.

“Throughout the day, we were just a little bit of a step behind with the teams we played,” Haase said. “By the end of the third game (of the finals), I just said, we need to push ourselves. It wasn’t about fundamentals. It was really about heart and desire. Both of us were in our fifth match. It was just about finishing. They (Watertown) did a nice job, and we went down a few points in that last set. The girls just relaxed and needed to get a little bit of excitement. I can’t remember who it was, but someone (Elise Gillen) put a ball down and it uplifted their spirits.”

Slinger improved to 12-5 on the season and sits at 3-1 in the North Shore.

Watertown’s record sits at 23-5.

The Goslings swept Muskego (25-19, 25-21), Whitnall (25-19, 25-22), De Pere (25-14, 25-17) and DeForest (25-15, 25-16) before losing the title match to Slinger.

Korducki led the Goslings with 36 kills. Westenberg added 22 kills and seven blocks. Gray and Stair each had 21 kills, with Stair added 25 digs and eight aces. Schauer put up 99 assists and served five aces. Senior middle Ashley Stas had eight blocks. Senior libero Sheridan Dettmann had 49 digs and served eight aces. Senior defensive specialist Payton Zubke added 24 digs.

Watertown returns to Badger South on Thursday with a road match against Monona Grove. This figures to be a more friendly reunion as the Silver Eagles are coached by former Watertown coach Melissa Hahn.

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