Volleyball ends season on high note

Volleyball ends season on high note

RIVER FALLS, Wis. – After a difficult loss this past Wednesday the Pioneers responded tonight with a 25-23, 21-25, 25-23, 25-19 win over UW-River Falls at the Falcon Arena.

The Pioneers (15-14, 1-6 WIAC) got off to a slow start against the Falcons (18-14, 0-8 WIAC), beginning the first set in a 0-6 hole. A few points later Junior Grace Austin shortened the deficit to 6-8 on a four point serving run, before UW-Platteville fell behind again 6-13. The Pioneers slowly chipped away at the Falcons lead and pushed within two at 20-22. Three kills by Senior Allison Jensen lead UW-Platteville to a 25-23 set one win.

In set two the Pioneers had their ups and downs as both teams traded scoring runs. The set was tied at 21-21 before the Falcons went on one final run to take the set 25-21. Freshman Kielyn Kapugi recorded five kills and Freshman Madie Sailors had six digs in the set for UW-Platteville.

Set three got off to a slow start as well for the Pioneers, but they fought back to take a 13-11 lead and forced the Falcons into a timeout. After the timeout UW-River Falls went on an 11-7 run to take a 22-20 lead, but kill by Junior Sarah Murphy and three consecutive blocks, including two by Sophomore Katie Jones, gave the Pioneers a 24-22 lead. Two points later a brilliant kill by setter Allie Carter gave the Pioneers set three.

UW-Platteville finished the season with a bang as the offense came alive in the fourth set. They hit .414 on 14 kills in the set including six by Jensen. Holding a 22-19 lead, Jensen went to the service line and went on a 3-0 run including her fourth ace of the night to end the match.

Offensively Jensen led the Pioneers hitting .204 with 17 kills to go along with her four aces. Kapugi contributed 11 kills hitting an efficient .304 on the night. Sailors took advantage of her move from middle back to left back defense racking up 17 digs. Austin added in 12 digs. Senior Maddie Dower passed a 2.33 on the night to lead the Pioneer's serve receive while Jones tallied six total blocks.

Not only did Jensen lead the Pioneers in kills and aces, she also reached a career milestone of 1,000 kills. Going into the last match of her career Jensen sat at 989 career kills, needing 11 to reach the 1,000 kill club very few hitters become a part of. She ends at 1,006.

Tonight's victory marks the Pioneer volleyball program's first winning season since 2013.

"Our coaching staff stepped into a program that was struggling to find its identity", said head coach Samantha Birkicht. "These girls worked with three different head coaches in three years and were lacking consistency. This season has been about defining what our program's vision is and understanding the direction we want to head."