Tomah played its best match of the season against the best team in the Mississippi Valley Conference.
The Timberwolves led for most of the match and delivered a no-doubt-about-it 25-18, 23-25, 25-15, 25-20 victory over La Crosse Aquinas Tuesday at Tomah High School.
Tomah improved to 6-5 in the MVC and upended the MVC title race. Aquinas dropped to 9-2 and fell into a first-place tie with Holmen with one match remaining. It was Tomah’s final regular-season home match.
Timberwolves’ coach Sarah Walters said it was a satisfying victory for her squad after it dropped from title contention after back-to-back losses to Holmen and Onalaska.
“The girls played really well tonight − it was fun to see everything come together,” Walters said. “Every one of them played up to the potential they could play tonight.”
Tomah served notice early in the match when it transformed a 13-11 deficit into 20-16 lead, which triggered an Aquinas timeout. The stoppage didn’t halt Tomah’s momentum. Mallory Pierce launched an ace for the 24th point, and the game ended with an errant Aquinas hit.
The second game was close throughout, with neither team leading by more than four points. The decisive stretch came when Aquinas rallied from a 13-11 deficit to grab a 19-15 lead. Tomah rallied to within 24-23 on a Reis Derousseau kill, but Aquinas’ Ellie Copps slammed a spike off a Tomah block to deadlock the match at 1-1.
The Timberwolves dominated the third game and built a 19-7 lead before Aquinas finally started to trade points. Tomah’s 25th point came when Savannah Murphy finessed a soft spike around an Aquinas blocker.
The fourth game was much closer. It was 15-15 when Derousseau slammed back-to-back kills, and a Murphy kill stretched Tomah’s advantage to 20-17.
Aquinas rallied to tie the match at 20-20 after a Tomah service fault, but the Timberwolves ripped off the final five points. The match ended when Derousseau hammered a hard spike that Aquinas had no chance to keep alive.
Walters said her team played well in every phase of the match. The Timberwolves were especially effective in blocking Aquinas’ powerful front line.
“We were aggressive at the net − our blocks were on,” Walters said. “Our blocks were where they needed to be to shut their offense down.”
Walters was also impressed with the court coverage. Five players had at least three digs.
“That comes from hustling,” Walters said. “They did not give up on any ball tonight. The adrenaline was just flowing tonight.”
The Timberwolves got a strong effort from setters Lily Redcloud and Abbey Larsen. Redcloud had 15 assists and three digs, while Larsen had 14 assists and five digs.
Derousseau led the hitters with 20 kills and 11 digs, and Murphy was close behind with 16 kills and five digs.
Madisyn Brey had 12 digs, while Madison Lindauer and Abby Wagenson both had four blocks.
It was the final home match for Tomah’s four seniors − Pierce, Derousseau, Larsen and Brooke Brown, whose season ended four weeks ago with an injury. Walters was happy her seniors could end their home career with a victory over a team like Aquinas, the defending MVC champion and state tournament qualifier last season.
“It’s a great win going into the tournament − it’s exactly what we needed,” Walters said. “It’s a good door-opener for the tournament. It says, ‘Here it is, you just did it.’”
The seeding meeting for the WIAA Division 1 Baraboo Sectional is this week. Walters believes the Timberwolves are likely to hit the road for a regional semifinal Thursday, Oct. 19. Regional finals are Saturday, Oct. 21.