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WIAA STATE VOLLEYBALL

WIAA state volleyball: Holmen gets tough quarterfinal draw in Appleton North

Holmen Volleyball

Holmen's Kassie Mueller works in Tuesday's practice to get ready for the WIAA Division 1 state tournament. The Vikings qualified for the first time and begin with a quarterfinal match against Appleton North on Thursday.

HOLMEN — The Holmen High School volleyball team understands the task at hand.

If the Vikings are able to extend their season on Thursday, they will have done it by beating the best opponent they’ve played all season.

A memorable season has taken Holmen (29-2) to new heights — a WIAA Division 1 state quarterfinal match against Appleton North — at the Resch Center in Green Bay on Thursday.

The second-seeded Lightning (39-6) provide the ultimate challenge for a seventh-seeded team that has relied on depth, balance and strong play from all over the court to become a state qualifier for the first time.

“They’ve walked the floor of the Resch Center a few times already, and for us, that’s new,” Holmen coach Sammi Maier said of the matchup, which begins at 1 p.m. “We’ll take it all in as we go along, but they are really tall, and they will have a huge block, so we will have to be clicking with our offense to throw them off as much as possible.”

The Lightning won last year’s spring Division 1 state tournament, and this is its sixth tournament since 2013. Two of its six losses came during a tournament at Skutt Catholic (Neb.), and three others came to other qualifying teams — Brookfield Central, Oconomowoc and Burlington.

And Maier isn’t exaggerating when she says North is tall. Junior outside hitter Kennedy Martin stands 6-foot-6. Three others are 6-2, another is 6-1 and another 6-0. That doesn’t even take into account the 5-11 Brianna Cantrell, an East Tennessee State commit.

Holmen’s tallest players are Mara Schmidt and Kyla Christnovich, both of whom are 5-11. The Vikings, as good and consistent as they’ve been, enter as the definite underdog.

“It’s a really exciting matchup,” said Schmidt, who will play beach volleyball at the University of Southern Mississippi. “I’ve seen some of the girls play before, and I think we’re ready. We have to show up mentally and physically, but I think the mental side is the bigger thing for us right now.”

Every player will have to contend with the heavy swings coming from the other side of the net, but the situation presents another chance for Holmen’s defensive ability to shine. The Vikings have excelled in extending points through digs from senior Ellie Kline, senior Kassie Mueller and others and will have to continue that against the Lightning.

And they will have to do so in an unfamiliar setting full of hype.

Kline said she has attended the tournament several times, which gives her a secondary understanding of what is ahead for the team.

“I’ve gone to watch these games with my grandpa and cousins,” Kline said. “To actually be someone playing out there and having everyone watching us is going to be an incredible feeling.

“I’ve always looked up to those players who are out there, and it’s an incredible atmosphere, it’s loud and it’s fun. Holmen also has a great community support system, so I know a lot of people are coming to support us.”

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