The Burlington High School girls volleyball team served up a winner on Friday night.
Thanks to some exceptional serving, Burlington convincingly defeated Divine Savior Holy Angels 25-23, 16-25, 25-16, 25-16 in a WIAA Division 1 state semifinal match at the Resch Center in Green Bay.
The victory sends the Demons (34-10) into Saturday’s championship match against River Falls (42-0). River Falls advanced by defeating Oconomowoc 26-24, 25-22, 22-25, 25-19.
River Falls was ranked fourth in the final Wisconsin Volleyball Coaches Association state poll while Burlington was ranked ninth.
Burlington co-head coach Teri Leach said she doesn’t know a lot about River Falls, but planned on doing some serious research late Friday night and Saturday morning.
“We know River Falls is coming in (the title match) undefeated,’’ Leach said. “And we do know they attack strong out of the middle. They have two strong players in the middle. Other than that, we know very little of them.
“We’ll work to see if we can find some film on them. We’re going to reach out to different coaches and gather as much information on them as we can. Whatever we can do to learn more about them.’’
The Demons seemed to have an excellent handle on Divine Savior Holy Angels on Friday. Leach said the Demons, who lost to DSHA in two games in the Thomas More Joust early in the season, realized it was imperative they serve well.
And that’s what they did. Sparked by Kaley Blake, the Demons registered 16 aces. Blake, a sophomore, accounted for eight of them. Brooklyn VandeHei had two service aces as did Cayla Gutche and Samantha Naber.
Conversely, DSHA managed only eight aces.
“We did a great job of executing our game plan again,’’ Leach said. “We knew what we had to do to put pressure on Divine Savior and that began at the service line. We felt if we could get them out of system that would give us the best opportunity to win.’’
While the Demons came out strong and won the first set, DSHA countered by winning the second set rather easily by nine points. That prompted Leach and co-head coach Dan Lynch to make some strategic moves, the biggest being moving VandeHei from the right side to the left side for the important third set.
That move paid off in a big way as the Demons won the set.
“When Abby (Koenen) went to the back row, Brook would come to the front row and that made a big difference,’’ Leach said. “Abby’s offense had been strong all night, and then Brook stepped up big.
“We weren’t relying on one person and we were able to maintain longer runs.’’
In the fourth set, DSHA showed it wasn’t going to go down without a fight. The Dashers and Demons were tied at 9-9, but the Demons reasserted themselves and gradually pulled away.
VandeHei’s delivered back-to-back kills that extended Burlington’s lead to 23-15. Maddie Berezowitz followed with a service ace before VandeHei and Camryn Lukenbill combined to block a shot by DSHA’s Aly Larcheid to seal the deal.
Koenen finished with a match-high 19 kills, while VandeHei totaled 15 kills. Blake was credited with 42 assists, while Naber led the team in digs with 23. Emily Alan and Koenen had six and four blocks, respectively, for the Demons.
“We got great contributions from everybody even though it might not show in the stats line,’’ Leach said.
Leach said the Demons played well but are capable of playing better. She said the Demons, who lost in the state championship match last year to Neenah, are confident they can bring home the gold trophy Saturday. The championshp match begins at 4:30 p.m.
“They’re confident, yes, but not overly confident,’’ Leach said. “I know they’re excited and they’re ready.’’