By Paul Lecker
MARSHFIELD — Marshfield Columbus Catholic volleyball cemented itself as the team to beat in the Cloverbelt Conference East Division after a pair of victories last week.
The Dons outlasted Spencer 3-1 and swept Colby 3-0 to knock off the other two previously unbeaten teams in conference play. That left Columbus Catholic as the team on top of the standings prior to Tuesday’s match against Greenwood, which the Dons also swept to move to 5-0.
As the last remaining unbeaten team, the Dons are in position to win the Cloverbelt East crown.
The Dons’ win at Spencer on Sept. 19 was noteworthy as it snapped the Rockets’ 45-match conference win streak, Spencer’s first Cloverbelt East loss since September 2011.
Columbus won 25-23, 22-25, 25-10, 25-19 behind strong play defensively. Spencer had numerous chances to earn points but was denied time and again by the Dons’ back row. Libero Annie Baierl had 25 digs, and Maren Seefluth and Katie Hall each had 20 digs to lead the way for Columbus.
Brooke Neider had 40 assists, Kenzie Hansen had 16 kills, and Jessica Jakopin had 10 kills and six blocks for the Dons.
The strong start to the season — despite the loss of a number of graduated seniors, including Kendra Baierl, who had more than 1,000 kills in her career — was not a surprise to coach Kat Egle.
“I expected good things with these girls,” said Egle, a former Spencer assistant coach. “They played good defense last year, but they were overshadowed by the seniors and the offense. They got some playing time last year and were definitely ready to step it up. It took them a little while in the beginning of the season to realize that this is our team now. We don’t have any seniors. We’re young. We have juniors and sophomores, so this is our team now, and this is what we have to do to make it happen.”
Neider has been steady throughout the season as the Dons’ setter, and Hansen, Jakopin, Seefluth, and Kate Turchi contribute up front with kills and big-time blocks. Hall, Seefluth, and Annie Baierl have been stalwarts in the back row. All of those players, with the exception of sophomore Jakopin, are juniors.
“The girls are adjusting with our defense,” Egle said. “We have a smaller block (group) than we have in the past. They’re moving their feet. They’re digging well. We have five really strong hitters, so it just depends on who’s on. We don’t have a given go-to hitter, so it just depends on who’s on tonight, or sometimes they all are. It’s really fun to see that. We’re more versatile.”
Columbus will finish up its conference season next week with matches at home against Gilman on Oct. 3 and at Loyal on Oct. 5.
Paul Lecker is the publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to Hub City Times Sports. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.