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Youthful Nicolet volleyball team lives up to tourney namesake

Oct. 5, 2010

Bob and Marta Gigl were there for the good times - the surprising repeat championship won by the Nicolet girls volleyball team at its own Brittney Gigl Invitational on Saturday.

And they were there for the not so good times either, just coming by to say "hello" and to give a consolation hug to Knights coach Dann Jacobson as Nicolet's 23-match North Shore Conference win streak came to an end at the hands of Germantown on Sept. 30.

That's just who they are.

"Just decent, kind and understanding people," Jacobson said on Sunday.

And it is a stunning and sublime fact that they have remained so. It has been nine years since their daughter, volleyball, basketball and softball player and all-around great competitor and friend, Brittney, was swiftly and sadly taken from them by a bout of viral encephalitis.

Ever since then, the volleyball program has sponsored this tournament as a fundraiser for the scholarship fund set up in Brittney's honor. It comes up with $1,000 to $1,200 every year, and her parents are there every year to give out the trophies.

A three-on-three basketball tournament held later in the year (three was her favorite number) does even better, bringing in $10,000 to $12,000 for the fund.

"It has grown so much, that it is now the largest scholarship we have at Nicolet," Jacobson said. "Athletes and non-athletes alike have won it."

The criteria for it has everything to do with being a nice person who reaches out to the community - something the Gigl parents seem to have a good handle on.

And the players know what kind of example they're looking up to.

The Knights downed Racine Horlick and Milwaukee Riverside in pool play and then defeated New Berlin West (16-25, 25-7, 15-12) and Appleton East (25-17, 25-11) in the championship playoffs.

It was their first tournament title of the season.

"This really lifted our spirits," Jacobson said. "The kids really had so much fun. They played with energy and a sense of urgency. … We're just so young (no seniors in the lineup). All we need is experience and that just takes time."

Names from the top of the lineup down to the bottom tripped off Jacobson's tongue in praise and included setter Dana Kenney (80 assists and eight aces), Melissa Morello (35 kills, 33 digs and tremendous leadership), Krystalyn Goode (22 kills, seven blocks and a great rendition of the national anthem), Becca Olin (nine blocks), and Alex Lautmann (33 digs and great all-around play), as well as Megan Simon, Natalie Sivilotti, Angie Morello and Elizabeth Heidenrich.

In short, it was a team effort.

"We've talked about our struggles and what a lost season it's been" Jacobson said, "but it hasn't been a down year at all. All our losses have been to top 10 (in state teams). We're just taking lumps because of our inexperience, but this helps.

"I thought going in that any one of five teams could win it, so this is a very sweet victory for us."

Gigl results

Whitefish Bay: The Blue Dukes fell to both Appleton East and Brookfield Central in pool play, but rebounded to down Wauwatosa East (28-26, 25-17) and Riverside (25-9, 25-18) in the bronze division playoffs.

"We played hard the entire day and gave teams some competition," coach Beth Stecklein said. "Sarah Weiss and Frankie Carroll played well throughout the day. Sophomore Chrissy Joachim stepped in for senior Dana Gunderson who was sick, and played very well at this higher level. It was a great tournament that we can't wait to go back to."

Homestead: The youthful Highlanders lost to Appleton North but beat Tosa East in pool play. In the silver division playoffs, they defeated Central, 25-21, 14-25, 15-12 but lost to Manitowoc, 28-26, 21-25, 15-4.

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