WILLIAMS BAY — While the Packers and Bears were facing off Sept. 5 in their historic football rivalry, a couple of Walworth County rivals were hitting the hardwood.
Williams Bay’s volleyball squad hosted neighboring rival Big Foot for a match, and the visiting Chiefs pulled off a 3-1 victory in an emotionally charged contest, which provided an energy-filled atmosphere that both coaching staffs encouraged.
“We stress it’s an important dynamic to have that emotion. We want you to be here because you care. We want you to be emotionally invested,” Williams Bay assistant coach Sydney Racky said.
That high-energy state benefited the visiting Chiefs early on, as they started the match on an 11-2 run, then followed that up by winning seven straight points to go ahead 18-3. Williams Bay closed out the set a bit better, but Big Foot still won the first set 25-7.
Big Foot head coach Caitlin Dowden has been preaching to her team all year to play with effort and energy. And while the team always has maximum effort, the extra shot of energy from the rivalry contest was all they needed to win the first set.
“They told me they were ready to bring it. It always helps when it’s a close school; we co-op with them in some sports. So it’s that friendly competition,” Dowden said. “They wanted to go out strong, and they started strong.”
The second set was a different story.
It began closely contested, but Big Foot was able to slowly build an 11-6 lead. However, six straight points by Williams Bay gave the Bulldogs a 12-11 lead.
Serving for the Bay during that hot streak was senior Hannah Rabenhorst, one of the team captains and a leader both on and off the court — and the perfect person to turn to when the Bulldogs needed a run.
“She honestly is one of the best leaders I’ve ever seen in an athlete,” Racky said. “She is a seasoned senior, and she’s ready to do whatever is thrown her way.”
The Bay kept rolling, eventually leading 17-13 before Big Foot began a charge of its own with seven straight points to go up 20-17. A few points later, the Chiefs were one point away from closing out the set at 24-21.
With their backs against the wall, the Bulldogs came out swinging to win five straight points to win the set 26-24, with Rabenhorst leading the way with her serving once again, to tie the match at one game apiece.
After the Chiefs had a hot start, they cooled off in the second half, mirroring an issue they have had early this season of starting fast but finishing slow. Dowden challenged her team to pick up the pace, and the team answered the call in the remainder of the game.
“I said you have two choices: You can say this is how we’re going to be, or you can turn it back to game one. And we turned it to game one, so I’ll take it,” Dowden said.
Early on in the third set, the two teams stayed close, with Big Foot leading 5-4 before rattling off a 13-4 run that stretched their advantage to 18-8. While Williams Bay was able to cut into the deficit, they were not able to claw all the way back, and the Chiefs won 25-19 to go ahead 2-1.
Big Foot started off the fourth and final set by winning the first eight points, then kept the pedal to the metal to clinch the game with a 25-10 victory.
In both the first and fourth sets, the Chiefs strong offense was led by their ability to rack up aces. Reagan Courier led both teams with seven aces in the game, and Lindsay Paulsen led Big Foot with 12 kills.
In the Bulldogs’ other action on the week, it was a mixed bag.
They kicked off the conference season Sept. 3 with a home match against Johnson Creek, and the Bluejays got the better of the Bulldogs in a 3-2 roller-coaster.
Johnson Creek won the first set 25-19, but the Bay came back to tie it 1-1 with a 25-20 victory. The Bluejays took the lead again with a 25-19 third-set win, but WBHS tied it up again with a 25-23 win. The Bluejays closed it out in the fifth set with a 15-7 win.
After the loss to Big Foot, Williams Bay hosted its annual home tournament on Sept. 7, where they went 1-3 on the day. The trio of losses came against Elkhorn, Hustisford and Racine Lutheran, while the team’s win came against Kenosha Christian Life. All four matches were decided in two sets.
Besides the Williams Bay win, the Chiefs’ other action of the week came against local rivals. On Sept. 5, Big Foot hosted a triangular against Badger and Burlington Catholic Central.
The Chiefs lost a close match 16-25, 28-26, 13-15 to Catholic Central to kick the tournament off, but bounced back in game two with a 25-18, 25-20 victory over the Badgers.