Falls' volleyball comes out of funk, beats Germantown and DSHA to win own invite
Switch in tactics key to success
Admittedly, the Menomonee Falls girls volleyball team was in a funk.
They'd lost to Greater Metro Conference rival Divine Savior Holy Angels in a fierce dual meet on Sept. 18, putting their long run of league titles in serious jeopardy, and then after a sound first day at the powerhouse West Bend Sprawl that following weekend, they went surprisingly flat the second day.
Compounding the problem, DSHA won that event, too, and vaulted to the top ranking in state Division 1 polls while Falls fell to seventh.
In short, the Indians needed a lift. They belted area rival Sussex Hamilton on a GMC dual on Sept. 25, but they needed something more.
And they got it on Sept. 29, as Falls made a few changes after the preliminary rounds and then beat area rival and returning North Shore co-champ Germantown in the semifinals and then stunned DSHA by a 25-23, 25-16 score in the final for the championship in its own invitational.
"We just worked a little magic," chuckled Indians coach J.C. Bruns. "Simply put, we played very well and got back on track. It was really surprising. We went up 8-1 in the first game (against DSHA) and then we held on, and in the second game we got it to 16-7 and went from there.
"We were just on our game all day."
Slow start warrants changes
Except at the beginning.
In pool play, they struggled to beat GMC rival West Allis Hale in two games, and then lost the first game to New Berlin Eisenhower before winning the next two. They then lost the first game in the final round robin match against the bracket's top seed, the state's second-ranked D2 school, Kettle Moraine Lutheran.
That's when Bruns made a change.
"Against Hale, I thought, 'Oh no, here we go again,' " Bruns said. "We then decided to go to a 6-2 offense, which allowed Abby (Becker, the team's regular setter) to hit more. (Sophomore) Justine Ertl came in to share setting with Abby and with Abby freed up more, we had more punch (offensively)."
The Indians then rallied back to defeat KML in the final round robin match which put them in a championship semifinal with border rival and 10th ranked Germantown, which they defeated 25-19, 25-23.
Warhawks coach Diane Harrod, whose team wound up losing to KML in the third-place match 25-10, 29-31, 15-12, was frustrated that her team could not push Falls to a third game in the semifinals.
"We had a run going, and then we put a serve into the net for match point," she said. "It was just the way the afternoon went for us. After doing fine in the morning, all of a sudden we couldn't pass the ball and when that happens, you can't run your plays. We became a little bit of head cases at that point.
"I know I have good players, they just have to have confidence that they can beat good teams."
And the Indians gained confidence with the surprisingly easy win over DSHA as the switch in offensive tactics started paying off in the semifinal with Germantown, which is still unbeaten in NSC duals.
Against the Warhawks, Simone Lee led the way with 13 kills as Becker contributed four. Becker had 11 assists and Ertl seven.
The impact of the changeover made itself more fully felt in the final as Lee and Becker became a two-headed attack that was hard for the Dashers to slow down. Becker had 13 kills and 16 assists while Ertl kept the pressure off Becker with nine assists and Lee led the way with 14 kills.
"It'd been a long week (since the dual with DS and the bad day in the Sprawl)," Bruns said. "We clearly had a hangover at the Sprawl because of DS and we needed to do something. This was good. We played three really good teams here today (KML, Germantown and DSHA) and got the job done.
"We now know that we have different options. Katherine Von Bank also had a really good day and, as usual, Simone (Lee) was Simone."
The Indians played West Allis Central in a GMC dual Tuesday and will finally have an off weekend. Bruns said that rest is much needed as the team is nursing a few minor injuries that could use the day off.
For Harrod, there will be no rest. The Warhawks have a chance to all but secure the North Shore dual meet title outright on Thursday when they host fellow league co-champ Nicolet in a 6:30 p.m. match.
Harrod, who highlighted the effort of all-around Megan Johnston for her efforts at Falls and noted that the Warhawks put in a good effort in losing to DSHA in pool play (25-22, 25-18), said the Nicolet match will be a big one in defining how the rest of the season will go.
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