For many of Verona’s volleyball players the WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal against La Crosse Central on Thursday, Oct. 21, marked their first postseason match.
The Wildcats didn’t play in the regional tournament last year because of a positive COVID-19 case. This time Verona sophomore setter Reagan McIntosh and the Wildcats were ready, rolling to a 25-18, 25-18, 25-16 win over La Crosse Central.
“This is my first regional game and it feels incredible,” said McIntosh, who racked up 33 assists. “We just had to shake off the nerves because this is the first regional match for a lot of us. There are so many fans here. It totally fired us up.”
After beating DeForest 3-2 in a regional final on Saturday, Oct. 23, fourth-seeded Verona (32-7) advances to play top-seeded Holmen (27-2), ranked ninth in the Wisconsin Volleyball Coaches Association state poll, in a Division 1 sectional semifinal on Thursday, Oct. 28, at Baraboo High School.
The Wildcats played without senior outside hitter Delaney McIntosh, a Colorado St. University commit, who suffered a torn ACL against Beloit Memorial and will miss the rest of the season.
Verona senior Lexi Stremlow wasn’t sure how the team would play without one of its top hitters. However, the Wildcats are now 8-1 without Delaney McIntosh and won every match en route to winning the Big Eight Conference tournament Oct. 16.
“I’m not going to lie, Delaney being a Division I recruit is a huge asset to our team,” Stremlow said. “Everyone looked at it as an opportunity to step up. Even though we can’t have her on the court with the team we can still do big things without her.”
Verona 3, DeForest 2
After dropping the third set to the Norskies 25-16, the Wildcats were on the brink of elimination. Verona responded by cruising to a 25-15 win in the fourth set to force a decisive fifth set.
Verona coach Jillian Bauer said the turning points were the Wildcats terminating points at the net and taking control of the serve and pass game.
“We were able to come out early and get ahead,” Bauer said. “I was proud of how we attacked and didn't back down on offense.”
Verona senior Claudia Bobb, a Southern Illinois University commit, had a team-high 18 kills. Senior Kimmy Quinn racked up 20 digs and notched four aces.
Regan McIntosh dished out 34 assists and junior middle hitter Paige Lambe posted two blocks.
Bauer said DeForest is a respectable team and program that was scrappy.
“We knew it'd be a competitive match going in, however, I'm proud of the perseverance that my team showed,” she said. “We were able to work through some things during the match, make changes when needed, and ultimately execute during crunch time.”
Verona 3, La Crosse Central 0
Verona got a test from 13th-seeded La Crosse Central in the first two sets before sweeping the RiverHawks in a Division 1 regional semifinal Oct. 21, in Verona.
The first set was tied at 15 before Verona pulled away. Bobb had two kills and the RiverHawks hit one attack into the net and another out of bounds to give the Wildcats a 19-15 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Bobb finished with a team-high 13 kills. Quinn recorded 16 digs and Lambe posted two blocks.
The second set started out similar to the first. The Wildcats built a lead on a six-point run, punctuated by Stremlow’s kill and Lambe’s tip to give Verona a 13-7 lead. The Hawks cut Verona’s lead to 17-16, but that’s as close as they would get. The Wildcats won five of the next six points, highlighted by Bobb’s kill to give Verona a 22-17 lead.
In the third set, the Wildcats jumped out to a 10-4 lead. Junior Jamie Puent had a kill and Bobb had kills during the spurt. Verona went to an effective tip at the net at times to vary up their attack and catch the Hawks off-balance.
The Wildcats had six aces, including two from junior Sydney Schultz, Stremlow and Puent.
“We treated it like we were playing a championship team,” Stremlow said. “If we played to our level and not the level on the other side of the court, I knew we could get it done.”