WILLIAMS BAY — When the Williams Bay volleyball team kicked off conference play on Aug. 31, they had a tall task ahead of them.
The Bulldogs hosted Johnson Creek, who were the Trailways Conference South champions last fall in an abbreviated schedule, and the Blue Jays will likely factor into this fall’s conference title race as well.
WBHS hung tough as best they could, but Johnson Creek pulled away when it mattered in a 3-0 sweep over the Dogs.
“You see we can play great, and we can give up. They got down on themselves and it showed that last set,” head coach Bill Nevoraski said.
At the start of the first set, the two teams went back-and-forth for the first few points, and Williams Bay was ahead 4-3. Johnson Creek won seven points in a row for a 10-4 advantage and looked like they were going to run away with the match.
Nevoraski called a time out, and the brief break allowed the Bulldogs to recalibrate, winning six of the next seven points to cut the Blue Jays’ lead to 11-10.
Over the rest of the set, Johnson Creek slowly built a meager lead, but Williams Bay won enough points to remain in striking distance, and the visitors led 21-18 late in the set. However, the Jays finished strong, winning four-straight points to close out the first set 25-18.
Johnson Creek started well in the second set, taking an 8-3 lead early before the Bulldogs cut it to 8-6. For the next 10 points, neither team won more than one point in a row and WBHS trailed 13-11.
While the rest of the set was a bit streakier, Williams Bay still only trailed by two points 21-19 a few points later. Much like in the first set, though, Johnson Creek finished strong for a 25-20 win to take a 2-0 set lead.
Though the first two sets did not go their way, the Bulldogs players were fairly happy with the way they played.
“I think the first two sets we were really playing together and we had a short memory, forget our mistakes,” junior hitter Evelyn Hamberg said.
In the third set, though, they were not quite as pleased with themselves.
“I think where we fell off was when we stopped playing as a team and we kept getting down on ourselves,” Hamberg said.
From the start of the set, it was clear that the Bulldogs were off their game, as Johnson Creek jumped out to a 6-1 lead that expanded to 11-3, then 18-5.
That lead was too much to overcome, and the Blue Jays finished off the match with a 25-9 margin for a 3-0 sweep.
With such a tough opponent in their first conference game, even if they did not play their best at the end, Williams Bay was glad to get some solid experience under their belts early in the year.
“It’s a hard set for our first one. I think this was really good practice,” Hamberg said.