DSHA defeated Oconomowoc, 3-2, on Nov. 5 to win the WIAA Division 1 Girls Volleyball state championship. (Submitted photos)
Two teams playing in a state championship match couldn’t have been more evenly matched or familiar with each other than Divine Savior Holy Angels and Oconomowoc in the WIAA Division 1 Girls Volleyball finals Nov. 5 at Green Bay’s Resch Center.
So, it was fitting the Dashers claimed their first state championship since 2015 by the slimmest possible margin, 3-2 (25-16, 25-16, 18-25, 18-25, 15-13).
When DSHA’s Madison Quest put down a kill off an assist from Jordan Czajkowski, it ended a tense, back-and-forth match that was the teams’ fourth meeting of the season.
“It helped to have played them a few times; we were able to learn about their strengths and tendencies so that we could figure out how to best match our strengths against theirs,” DSHA coach Caitie Ratkowski said.
DSHA (43-16), which came into the state tournament seeded second behind Oconomowoc, had defeated the Raccoons in the season-opening Joust Tournament, but had lost to them in the championship matches of the Charger Challenge and the West Bend Sprawl in the interim.
After DSHA had won the first two sets to reach the cusp of winning the title, they led 12-9 early in the third set. However, Oconomowoc rallied to take that set and stay alive. In the fourth set, Oconomowoc never trailed after falling behind 3-2.
“Oconomowoc played really well in games three and four, and we needed to focus on making some adjustments to come back from losing those two sets,” Ratkowski said. “I think our team stayed really composed, and the coaching staff discussed what we needed to do to bounce back in the fifth set. The players were very focused and did what they needed to do to adjust and come back.”
The fifth set was as close as the two teams had been all season, with neither team leading by more than two points throughout. The last time the Dashers trailed was at 10-9, but they then rattled off three straight points off two Oconomowoc attacking errors and a service ace by DSHA’s Olivia Durst.
“The fifth set was pretty close the entire time, and we did not think it was over until that 15th point was scored,” said Ratkowski, who was in her first season as DSHA head coach in 2015 when the Dashers won their previous state title. “We had good moments where we scored points in a row to come back, but knew we would have to battle until the final point.”
The Joust championship for the Dashers might have sealed in the players’ minds what Ratkowski was thinking to herself. The first tournament of the season usually draws all of the top teams in the state.
“We knew we had a very talented group at the beginning of the season, and after winning the Joust, I think they all started to believe in their potential and how great this group really was,” Ratkowski said. “Winning state was definitely a team goal for the season; the players worked hard in practices and during games all season long, and continued to keep getting better. I think that prepared us for how well we did in the post-season.”
Quest, who was a first-team all-state and all-conference selection for the Dashers, had 25 kills and 18 digs in the championship. Sophia Wendlick (first-team all-conference and second-team all-state) added kills and four block assists.
Earlier in the state tournament, DSHA had defeated Middleton 3-0 (25-9, 25-13, 25-18) on Nov. 3 and Appleton North 3-0 (25-23, 25-17, 25-14) on Nov. 4.
Other members of the DSHA squad who were all-conference selections included Bella Lipski (second-team all-conference, honorable mention all-state), Olivia de Guzman (second-team all-conference), Jordan Czajkowski (honorable mention all-conference and honorable mention all-state), and Durst (honorable mention all-conference).