Pioneers lose grueling five-set match over UW-Eau Claire.

Pioneers lose grueling five-set match over UW-Eau Claire.

The Pioneers (22-12) completed their regular season with a 3-2 win (15-25, 25-22, 26-24, 23-25, 12-15) over visiting UW-Eau Claire. This was the Pioneers' second five-set match in as many days.

The game was Alumni Day for the Pioneers, as UW-Platteville honored their former student-athletes and their families.

The defense hurt the Pioneers early, falling into a quick 14-4 hole in the first set. The Pioneers were having difficulty with their sets, allowing for some easy points for the Blugolds. A kill by senior Danielle Cushley sparked a rally that saw the Pioneers start chipping away at the lead, but the Blugolds answered, winning the first set 25-15.

The Pioneers came back more aggressive in the second set, converting attacks into points efficiently. The Blugolds kept the game close, and late in the set, the score was 23-22 Pioneers. Senior Samantha Rampart and junior Stephanie Kirchner provided the final two kills for the Pioneers, facilitating the 25-22 win.

In the third set, neither team could build much of a lead. The trio of Kirchner, Rampart and Cushley paced the Pioneer offense, having seven of the first 10 points for the Pioneers, while two points came from Blugold errors. A Blugold rally gave them the lead 19-15. The Pioneers answered with a 4-0 run, tying the game at 19. The teams played point-for-point from there, until back-to-back kills by Cushley sealed the set for the home team 26-24.    

The neck-and-neck play continued in the fourth set. The Pioneers held a slim lead for most of the set, powered by strong defense at the net from freshman Katie O'Malley and sophomore LeeAnn Mizgalski. O'Malley was also key is setting up many of the Pioneer attacks. With the score tied at 22, the Blugolds scored two points on blocks out of bounds by the Pioneers. The Blugolds finished off the set, winning 25-23.

The crucial fifth set again was a back-and-forth affair. The Blugolds had built an 8-4 lead when the teams flipped benches.  Despite a valiant effort by the Pioneers that saw them cut the lead to 14-12, the squad was unable to complete the comeback, falling 15-12.

The Pioneers will wait to see if they qualify for the WIAC Tournament that begins on Tuesday.