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Lady Chiefs charging northward



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The Big Foot volleyball squad hoists the WIAA Division 2 sectional title plaque skyward after defeating Richland Center Saturday night.

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Meghan Schneider soars above the net to spike home a kill past two Richland defenders. (click for larger version)

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Mackenzie Long, Kat Rotta, Annie Kunes and Meghan Schneider celebrate after winning game one last Thursday. (click for larger version)

WHAT'S ON TAP? Big Foot (40-4) vs. Waukesha Catholic Memorial (44-6), WIAA Division 2 state semifinal, Resch Center, Green Bay, Friday, 4 p.m. Key Memorial player — Aly Dawson: The junior hitter recorded 15 kills in a 3-1 sectional final win over Milwaukee Lutheran. Dawson added 12 kills in a 3-0 sectional semifinal win over Milwaukee Thomas More. Big Foot coach Jen Stelling said her squad will have to account for the size of the Crusaders, who boast three girls 5-foot-11 or taller including 6-foot-2 Amanda Hansen. The skinny — While most people are happy just reaching state, what's the point of being in it if you're not going to win it? Big Foot is battle-tested. They faced Catholic Memorial along with top-ranked teams from Division 1 and 3 during the regular season. While the Crusaders have the pedigree (two straight titles), they are not invincible. They lost Westosha Central in three games and lost to East Troy, a team which Big Foot recently beat. Win or lose, I expect the Lady Chiefs to keep it close.
November 02, 2011 | 08:29 AM
EDGERTON — Throughout the postseason, Big Foot volleyball coach Jen Stelling was worried about her team's matches lasting more than three games.

With the heightened pressure of the playoffs, she wasn't sure how her team, which won most matches this season with ease, would react to adversity.

On Saturday night in a WIAA Division 2 sectional final against fellow top-seeded Richland Center, the Lady Chiefs put Stelling's mind to rest once and for all and guaranteed their names will live forever at the school with a 25-16, 28-26, 25-22 victory.

For the first time in school history (more than 35 years of volleyball), the Walworth girls will take their talents to Green Bay for next weekend's WIAA state tournament, which will begin with a Friday battle against two-time defending state champion Waukesha Catholic Memorial.

Co-captain Annie Kunes said the team isn't satisfied.

"Not even a little," she said. "If we're there, we're going to go for it, all the way."

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Stelling has waited patiently for this career-changing moment.

"It only took me nine years," she joked. "I've got a great group here. Kelly Lehman, a coach with Wisconsin Juniors, has helped me along the way. And Katie Brockwell has been a huge asset. We've worked together for seven years, and I think we make a really good team."

Brockwell played on the 1999 Chiefs, which lost back-to-back sectional finals.

Earlier in the season, Big Foot fell to Catholic Memorial, 2-1. But they won the first game and only lost game three by two points. Memorial is ranked No. 1 in Division 2.

"We played with confidence against them, and our defense was unstoppable," Stelling said. "They're within our reach if we play defense the way we need to."

Saturday's match was neck-and-neck in game one. Richland Center jumped out to an 8-7 lead before Big Foot roared back with an 8-0 run. The Chiefs cruised to a 25-16 victory.

In a pivotal second game, the Hornets had a 16-13 lead before Sydney Racky and Kunes helped bring Big Foot back.

Racky's ace tied the game at 16-16. Later, Kunes recorded a tip kill and another emphatic kill to give Big Foot a 22-21 lead. The teams exchanged points until Meghan Schneider and Kat Rotta drew up one of their secret weapons.

At game point, Rotta tipped the ball backward to a running Schneider, who elevated off one leg to slam the point home. The play, known as the slide, was took the sting out of the Hornets all night.

Up 2-0, Big Foot stumbled early in game three. Richland took its biggest lead of the night at 11-6, but the Chiefs battled back with a 7-1 run capped off by a Racky ace which gave the girls their first lead, 13-12.

Big Foot built up a three-point lead at 17-14, but a 3-1 mini run got Richland within one point. Big Foot kept Richland at bay until the Hornets cut the lead to 23-22, prompting a Big Foot timeout.

Another Schneider kill put Big Foot up 24-22, and a Richland error spelled victory for the Chiefs, 25-22.

"They were nervous tonight because it was so close," Stelling said of her girls. "We did what we do best and fed our middle and our right side in the third game."

Big Foot enjoyed plenty of scoring balance, with Kunes, Schneider and Racky each tallying 11 kills.

Schneider added five blocks. Mackenzie Long led the way with 16 digs and three aces. Amy Schryver added 15 digs.

Rotta dished out 41 assists.

Schneider couldn't believe her team is going to state.

"It's super surreal," she said. "I believed in us and knew we could do it. But to actually be here, it's a completely different feeling. Volleyball is such a mental game. The only thing that would hold us back is our mental mindset. We think this was a lot of people, wait until we get to state."

"We did absolutely amazing tonight," Rotta said. "We have to work as hard as we can to win at state."

Racky was emotional after the victory.

"These are totally tears of joy," she said. "I never expected it to happen. After the boys (football) lost last night, it made me want to go so much harder. Someone had to carry the torch. Three days ago, it hit me we could be the first team to go to state. Now that it's set in stone, I'm on cloud nine. These girls are my sisters. We love each other, we get mad at each other, we do everything together."

For Scrhryver, it is all about chemistry.

"We are honestly the closest we've ever been," Schryver said. "We're so open with each other, and we trust each other so much. We wouldn't have been able to do it without our coaches and families and fans."

Long knows there is still work to be done.

""We knew we had a good team, and our goal was to go to state," Long said. "But we need more communication," she said. "There will be so many fans, and it gets louder and louder."

At 40-4, Big Foot will have its hands full with Catholic Memorial (44-6). Stelling said her girls can get better.

"We need to get rid of the nerves," she said. "Catholic Memorial is huge. We must play better defense, and our serves need to be more aggressive. We need to keep our routine the same and keep working hard. Whatever the atmosphere there, it's going to be fun."

McFarland no match

The Big Foot netters made more history Oct. 27, downing McFarland, 25-21, 27-25, 25-20, in a WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinal at Lakeside Lutheran High School. It was the program's first sectional match victory in Coach Jen Stelling's nine-year career, and it marked the first time Big Foot will play for the right to make state since 1999.

"It's good for the girls and Big Foot," Stelling said. "We have a special group of girls."

Division 1 recruit Annie Kunes led the way for Big Foot. She had nine kills and three aces. Fellow captain Meghan Schneider paced the club with five blocks and added seven kills.

However, it was far from a two-girl show. Several players stepped up all night, including Sydney Racky, Amy Schryver, Laura Hanley and Katarina Rotta.

After cruising in game one, Big Foot ran into some adversity in game two. The teams were back and forth most of the game. In the late stages, McFarland went ahead 24-23, and Big Foot called timeout. That was all it took for the Walworth girls to kick it into gear.

They finished with a 4-1 run to go up 2-0 and suck the life out of the Spartans. Racky lobbed a kill in the middle of the Spartan defense for a point to make it 26-25, then Hanley wrapped things up with a creative tip kill which sailed behind her and beyond the outstretched Spartan player.

By the third game, McFarland was on its last leg. The Lady Spartans were quiet and had their heads down as Big Foot jumped out to a 14-5 lead. McFarland cut the lead to 18-14 and 24-20, but Big Foot was too strong.

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