Historic season halts at home sectional final

Port Washington volleyball exacts revenge on Pewaukee before losing to Wisconsin Lutheran

PORT WASHINGTON VOLLEYBALL players (top left) Sydney Hoeft and Elyse Karrels (15) went up for a block against Wisconsin Lutheran’s Lauren Olson in a Division 2 sectional final Saturday in Port. Clockwise from top, Lillian Merow (21) and Rebecca Sepanic (16) went up for kills against the Vikings. Above, Jennacy Wille (13) and Carolyn Lippe (7) put balls down at Pewaukee last Thursday. Photos by Sam Arendt and Mitch Maersch


Ozaukee Press staff

Getting dominated in a sectional final at home on Saturday was a disappointing way for the Port Washington High School girls’ volleyball team to end the season, but it didn’t take away from what the Pirates accomplished.

No. 3-seeded Wisconsin Lutheran swept No. 4-seeded Port, 25-19, 25-19 25-20, to qualify for the Division 2 state tournament, one year after the Vikings were bounced in a Division 1 sectional final by Kettle Moraine.

Port has never advanced to state in volleyball, so it either tied or set the school record for the program’s deepest playoff run.

That wasn’t lost on the Pirates’ three seniors and third-year coach Paul Jungbauer.

“We made history. As much as I want to keep going, I’m proud of it,” outside hitter Jennacy Wille said.

“My freshman year this would not even be in the farthest dreams,” setter Sydney Hoeft said. “This isn’t even imaginable for us to even come this far. This has been everything.”

“I’m so proud of this program. Paul really turned it around in three years,” middle hitter Rebecca Sepanic, who joined the team after moving to Wisconsin from Texas last year, said.

“I’m glad I joined this team. I’ve never been part of a team that got this far on a road to state.”

For Jungbauer, the team took another step forward.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our group of girls and everything they’ve accomplished this season. They gave everything they had, and I don’t think our school has ever been at this point,” he said.

He reflected on the journey of his trio of seniors.

“For Jennacy and for Sydney, their first year as freshmen on varsity, they definitely went through a lot and not many wins. But it doesn’t say anything about their character and their will and want to get better. Our program is where it is today because of the buy-in that those two had and because of their positive attitude throughout,” he said.

“Rebecca coming over last year – she’s just a fantastic kid. I’ve got nothing but positive things to say about those three and mad respect for all of them.”

Against the Vikings, Port never got into a rhythm and only led a few times during the entire match with the biggest edge at 14-10 during the second set.

Hard kill attempts by Wille, Sepanic, junior middle hitter Elyse Karrels and junior outside hitter Carolyn Lippe that usually scored points were often dug up by the Vikings, and they were also ready for well-placed tips and surprise sets.

Lippe had nine kills, Wille had six, Sepanic had five and Karrels had four. Port hit .093 as a team to the Vikings’ .201.

Karrels had four blocks and Sepanic had three. Hoeft had 25 assists. Lippe had 15 digs, Wille had 14, Hoeft had 12, juniors Ari Canseco and Madelyn Rasmussen had eight and sophomore Cali Schultz had seven.

On offense, the Vikings found Port’s holes and exploited them, putting balls exactly where they needed to be.

Hannah Trotter had 12 kills, Ryleigh Zeller had 11, Chloe Campbell had nine, and Annie Schultz had eight.

Their veteran savvy made a difference.

“We had some spurts but I will tell you their entire starting lineup of seniors, their experience definitely kicked in today,” Jungbauer said.

“I would have liked to get our middles and (Lillian Merow) a little more involved. Sometimes game plans don’t go your way, and the other team just executed very, very well. They mixed their shots up and hit some very tough locations out on the court.”

“They knew where to put it. They knew where we weren’t. They really executed on every single point,” Wille said.

“I don’t know what they found, but they found a way to work around us,” Hoeft said.

“I feel like our heads weren’t in it. They definitely had a tough serve, and we weren’t communicating today,” Lippe said.

The Vikings took control early. Port never led in the first set but stayed within a few points for most of it. At 19-17, the Vikings went on a 6-2 run to close the set.

Port fell behind, 9-3, in the second set before battling to a 14-10 lead. The Vikings came back to tie it at 14 and then 16 before closing with a 9-3 run.

By the third set, the Vikings were playing with confidence while Port was struggling to extend its season. The Vikings held leads of 9-4 and 18-9 before the Pirates mounted a comeback. At 19-15, the Vikings called a timeout before winning six of the next 11 points to take the match.

The Pirates finished the season 31-11.

Port Washington pounds other Pirates

Two days earlier, the Pirates returned to the place their season ended last year. This time, the result was flipped, with Port puncturing Pewaukee in four sets, 25-17, 25-22, 23-25, 25-16.

Karrels had 16 kills, Wille had 14, Lippe had 11 and Sepanic had five, along with seven blocks. Port hit .336 to Pewaukee’s .205.

Hoeft had 46 assists. Lippe had 21 digs, Hoeft had 20, Wille had 12 and Canseco had 11.

Port from the start acted like the more confident team, from body language to their play, building a 14-8 lead in the first set. Pewaukee never got closer than five the rest of the set.

The second set was more contested, with ties at 15, 16 and 17, before Port pulled away.

Port took an early lead in the third set, but Pewaukee, a state qualifier a year ago, fought back with its season on the line, taking its first lead at 15-14. The set was tied at 16, 17 and 18 before Pewaukee opened a 23-19 lead. Port clawed back to 23-22 before losing the final two points.

But Port wasn’t fazed. After the fourth set was knotted at 9, Port went on a 9-1 run to take control and soon put the match away in front of a strong visiting crowd of parents and students, the latter decked out in Hawaiian attire.

“We were on top of the world from our last win,” Wille said, referencing the upset over top-seeded Kettle Moraine Lutheran on Oct. 22. “We were ready. We were so ready. This was our revenge game.”

“This year I think we were definitely ready for them,” Hoeft said. “We understood there’s nothing to lose at this point but we knew what to expect. We’re not shocked and wowed, like what are they going to show us this time.”

“We definitely wanted it more this year. You could tell by everyone’s dedication,” Karrels said.

Port’s front line wrecked Pewaukee’s offense. Sepanic and Karrels are each 5 feet, 10 inches tall, Merow is 6-2 and all three seemingly have arms just about as long when they go up for a block. When balls did get through, Port’s defense kept them alive. One thrilling block, dig or kill ignited their fan contingent and became contagious on a team whose chemistry is more like that of a family.

“Once we have the energy up and once we go on a run, then it comes easier. Then once one person does a good thing, everyone wants to do just as good,” Karrels said.

Hoeft got to fill out a multiple choice quiz with every set she made, and there were no wrong answers among Port’s weaponry.

“It’s like, ‘Hey, you or you or you.’ It’s not like I’m stuck with one person,” she said. “I’ve got a lot of options. It’s really cool and it really helps us a lot.”

“This is where our season ended last year, and those seniors didn’t want it to end two years in a row,” Jungbauer said.

“I’m proud of our girls on how they stayed tough. Pewaukee is a great team.”

Jungbauer said he appreciated the Booster Club and administration for organizing a fan bus to Pewaukee and for football players who attended a day before their playoff game against Grafton, along with coaches of other Port sports.

“That’s the sign of a strong community. We had a lot of fans here, and I know our girls felt the support.”



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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