Volleyball: Oconto Falls surges past Clintonville in home opener

Panthers rally late in first set before earning sweep
Morgan Rode
Sports Editor

OCONTO FALLS — A rally late in the first set propelled the Oconto Falls High School volleyball team to a North Eastern Conference sweep of Clintonville on Thursday.

Oconto Falls fell behind early in the first set and eventually looked to be on their way to dropping the first set as the hosts trailed 23-19. The Panthers won seven of the next eight points, including the final five to claim the first set 26-24.

“In the first set, it was one of those things where we always seemed to be behind by two or three, just trying to catch up. We were making mistakes and giving them some free points,” said Oconto Falls coach Rochell Otto. “There was a call that could have went either way and it went in our favor. We really got lucky to come away with a win in that first set and it turned out to be a huge momentum swing…”

Oconto Falls won the second set 25-13 before taking the final set 25-17 to finish off the sweep.

The first set saw Clintonville grab the first three points before Oconto Falls responded with three points of its own to tie it up. But the visiting Truckers regained the lead and didn’t relinquish it until late in the set.

Trailing 24-21, it was senior Natalie Brauer and sophomore Emmie Magnin that led the Panthers’ comeback.

Brauer started the 5-0 run with a tip kill, before Magnin served a pair of aces to tie it at 24. A Clintonville attack error gave Oconto Falls its first lead before sophomore Hailey Peitersen finished off the set with a tip kill.

“This was our first (home) match, so I feel like everybody was a bit nervous,” said Brauer. “But we worked as a team and were able to pick each other up, so that really helped. Then we just kept pushing.”

The Panthers opened the second set by taking the first five points, with senior Samantha Coron serving for the final four points.

Oconto Falls was able to work its lead up to seven, 14-7, and force a timeout.

“We were on a roll and we had high energy,” said Magnin on the team’s second set after rallying in the first set. “We kept pushing and played really well together.”

The Truckers took the first point out of the timeout, before the Panthers claimed the next six to go up 20-8. Coron was again serving as the hosts went on their run.

Clintonville was able to cut its deficit down to nine after a couple of Oconto Falls errors, but the Panthers closed the set strong by taking the final four points.

The final set was reminiscent of the first, as Clintonville worked out to a lead and looked to be in control.

But after trailing 10-6 and taking a timeout to regroup, Oconto Falls roared back to life. The hosts went on a 12-2 run behind strong serving from Peitersen and juniors Amelia Rice and Abbi Remic.

After a Clintonville timeout, Oconto Falls finished off the set strong. Brauer tallied several kills down the stretch, including one for the final point of the night.

Brauer finished with 10 attack kills, while Magnin led the team with 11. Junior Jayden Arndt had eight kills.

Coron had 16 service points on the night, serving six aces along the way. She also totaled 26 assists. Sophomore Karlie Kowalczyk led the team with nine digs, while Rice had seven and Magnin six.

With the win, Oconto Falls improved to 8-2 on the young season.

The Panthers will look to keep things rolling in their next contest against Freedom on Thursday. That home game will also serve as parent’s night for the Panthers.