Badger volleyball remains unbeaten

CHAMPION — The Badger volleyball team, which had already surpassed last season’s win total, remained perfect thus far this season with a 3-1 win over Champion on Saturday.

But it didn’t come easy for the Braves, as they had to rally from a 24-22 deficit in the fourth game to prevail 28-26 and prevent a decisive fifth game.

They improved to 8-0 after finishing 5-15 last season.

“In the fourth game, it was back-and-forth throughout and we took timeout (at 24-22),” coach Erin Smolinski said. “I told the girls that they put in this much work , to go ahead and finish it off. We didn’t want to play a fifth set, so we had to decide right then to end (the match) and make sure we kept our perfect record.

“It feels awesome to start the season like this. The girls just put a lot of hard work in during the summer and they deserve this. I was hoping we’d have a strong season, but you never know. So to begin like this is a testament to their work.”

The Golden Flashes, who fell to 2-5, won the first game 25-23 before Badger took the next two, 25-18, 25-21.

“This was our first Saturday match of the year and those are always tough ones to come out and stay focused, because it’s not the normal school-day routine,” Champion coach Megan Wagner said. “But we had a solid first game and we were solid in the fourth game, but in between we didn’t play so well.

“Had we played even keel the whole match and with the same intensity the whole match as we did in game 1 and game 4, the outcome may have been a different story today.”

Junior middle hitter Grace Popovich had 15 kills and six blocks to control play at the net for Badger, while senior Paige Kramar supplied seven kills and 24 assists. Defensively, junior Allyson Yauger had 49 digs and also served up three aces.

“Paige really runs the floor for us and makes a lot of plays,” Smolinski said. “She and Allyson have been our leaders, but all of the girls are contributing. Everyone is doing their part. Without any one of them not doing their share, I don’t think we’d be where we are today.”

For Champion, Savannah Dodrill registered 22 digs, 14 assists and five kills and Adrianna Stoops had eight kills. Kaylee Gania had 26 digs and four aces, Avery Clay had four blocks and Maddie Stein added three aces.

“Savannah is our setter and outside hitter,” said Wagner, whose team plays Monday at Girard. “She’s setting from the back row and hitting in the front row and she’s solid with good versatility. Jenna Deer is scrappy and has played well and Jacqueline Seman is a good hitter when we get the ball to her in good spots.

“Unfortunately, we were a little out of system too much today. Had we cleaned it up a little, we could have taken (Badger) down. But we’re going to keep rolling with the punches and work on our consistency.”

The Braves also didn’t feel like they played up to par.

“We were struggling a little bit,” said Smolinski, whose team plays at Maplewood on Monday. “We had a long week and we’re playing on a Saturday morning. We lacked some communication. We’re 8-0, but we’ve just got to put that out of our minds and play them one match at a time.”