Midway through the fourth game of its North Shore Conference dual meet with rival and fellow unbeaten Germantown Thursday night, the youthful Nicolet girls volleyball team had a glimmer of hope.
The Knights, without a senior in their line-up, had fallen behind 2-0 in games, rallied to win the third and had overcome an 8-2 deficit in the fourth to earn a 15-13 lead.
But that's when the experienced and deep Warhawks shut the door, scoring nine out of the next 10 points and then coasting home for a decisive 25-19 victory. The overall match score was 25-16, 31-29, 18-25, 25-19.
It was a long time coming for Germantown senior setter Bethany Baxter, a four-year letterwinner, who was on the last Warhawk (and last North Shore) team to beat the Knights in 2007.
"Oh yeah, this feels so good," said Baxter. "We're the first ones to beat them in a long time and so that's a very good feeling." Nicolet had won 23 league dual meets in a row.
Nicolet coach Dann Jacobson knew going into the match that in the 2010 version of the Warhawks he was looking into a mirror image of his high-powered 2009 squad that won its second NSC title in a row and earned a state tournament berth.
"I don't know if they have a superstar or not," he said, "but what they've got is a real team. They're just rock-solid everywhere. They're so well-coached (in 30-year veteran Diane Harrod) and they put the ball away when needed."
Germantown is 5-0 in North Shore duals with two to play, while Nicolet, which was playing its first home match on its newly refurbished floor, fell to 4-1.
"They haven't lost in forever on this floor, so this is a very good feeling," said Harrod. "Even as young as they are, we knew it wouldn't be easy, but we stayed focused when we needed to."
Like in that fourth game.
Germantown had gutted out the intense second game win fighting off three set points in the bargain. On her birthday, defensive specialist Tara Peterson won it with a deft placement to the middle of the Knight defense. The team rewarded her afterward with a serenade of "Happy Birthday" and a batch of balloons.
But the Knights didn't fold. The Warhawks looked like they were going to cruise to a 3-0 match win by taking a 16-11 lead in the third game, but Nicolet, behind the inspired play of all-state outside hitter Melissa Morello and middle hitter Krystalyn Goode, scored six unanswered points, which started a set-ending 14-2 run.
"We just lost our focus for a little while there," said Harrod.
But the Warhawks quickly regained it at the start of fourth set, launching out to an 8-2 lead. After a Nicolet timeout, the Knights quickly surged back into the game, taking a 15-13 lead.
That was to be the highwater mark for Nicolet. Germantown's subsequent surge was powered junior Taylor Edmonds, who had three important kills. Her effort included a great reaction shot where she had an initial hit blocked but then she turned and batted the block back into the far corner. She would finish with team highs of 21 kills and 19 assists.
"She has really lifted the level of her game," said retired Menomonee Falls coach Jean Oettinger of Edmonds, who was among the large throng observing the match.
"We knew we had to buckle down and we did," said Baxter. "This is a big step towards our first goal (conference)."
Emma Brunkhorst had five blocks as Ally Groth and Edmonds had 16 digs apiece and Maggie Johnston four aces.
"This was just a great match and we'll learn from it," said Jacobson.
"We brought it back, which was the important thing," said Harrod.
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