Prep girls volleyball: This time, Watertown finishes the job at Sun Prairie
SUN PRAIRIE — Watertown’s Bri Korducki was looking for a different result on this trip to Sun Prairie.
The 5-foot-11 senior and her Goslings teammates had made an annual trek to the two-day, 12-team Cardinal Invitational girls volleyball tournament, but first place had proven elusive.
Watertown completed an undefeated tournament — winning eight matches — and claimed the championship with a 25-23, 25-21 victory over host Sun Prairie.
“We knew were going to do better than we did in years past,” said Korducki, who plays middle blocker and outside hitter. “This year we really wanted to win it, especially for us seniors because we had never won this tournament before. So, it was exciting for us.
“This was a rematch of last year’s championship. We lost to Sun Prairie last year, so coming in we were very excited for that (opportunity). … It means a lot. It makes this year look like a bright year for us.”
Watertown (12-2) won the Badger South Conference dual and tournament titles last year, its first season in that league. First-year coach Carrie Hein said Watertown hopes to repeat in the Badger South, but also had set a goal to win the Sun Prairie tournament.
“This was a big win for not only our record, but for the girls’ confidence,” said Hein, whose team won five matches Friday en route to finishing first in Pool B and then won three more times Saturday. “On our team goals and our mission, this was one of the stopping points. We wanted to win this tournament.”
After junior outside hitter Karlie “K.J.” McNabb led Sun Prairie (7-1) to a 23-21 lead in the first set, Watertown scored the final four points. Sophomore Alayna Westenberg had a kill, Korducki followed with two kills and junior Allison Stair finished the set with a service ace.
Watertown opened a 21-15 lead in the second set, before the Cardinals rallied within 22-20. But the Goslings closed out the match with two kills from the 5-11 Westenberg and another from Stair.
Stair (seven kills), Westenberg (six kills) and Korducki (five kills) led Watertown’s attack, run by junior setter Isabelle Schauer (20 assists). The 5-9 McNabb topped Sun Prairie with eight kills, 6-2 sophomore setter Josie Halbleib totaled 14 assists and junior middle blocker Kirsten Anderson recorded 2.5 blocks.
“We did some really good things this weekend,” said Sun Prairie coach T.J. Rantala, whose team topped Pool A. “As with any team, you come into a tournament this time of year, you have a lot to work on. And this highlights the things you have to work on. But the girls know that. I am pleased with their competitive attitude and their hard work.”
The Cardinals shared the Big Eight Conference crown last season with Verona and Middleton and reached the WIAA Division 1 sectional final, falling to Waunakee in five sets. But 10 seniors, including University of Louisville commit Claire Chaussee, departed — leaving Sun Prairie “with a lot of new faces,” Rantala said.
“All of these girls have a very high ceiling,” Rantala said. “They have only scratched the surface of what they can do.”
That includes McNabb, a six-rotation player who’s orally committed to Loyola University in Illinois.
“Karlie does a great job,” Rantala said. “She has a lot of experience, but it’s a whole different role for her this year. Last year, she was in Claire’s shadow. This year, people are going to look for her.”
Sun Prairie defeated Luxemburg-Casco 25-21, 19-25, 15-12 and Watertown topped Hortonville 25-10, 25-20 in the semifinals.
“Yesterday we had a lot of ups and downs but the girls never gave up, which is a testament to their heart in the game,” Hein said. “Whenever we were down, we worked our way and got back up and it carried over into today. We had great energy. They were able to overcome some really tough teams today, which is super exciting. It sets the bar very high for the rest of the season.”