Let us be honest: A trip to the state tournament is a big disruption of your week.
Let us now be blunt: Who cares? So you lose time at work or school because you’re supporting your team 3½ hours northeast of here. That’s your civic duty.
For that matter, a state trip makes your season automatically a great season, regardless of how the regular season went, and regardless of what you do at state. Platteville won half of the Southwest Wisconsin Conference volleyball title; so did River Valley, but who went farther? Southwestern didn’t even win its conference title, but the Southwest Wisconsin Activities League champion, Cuba City, didn’t go to state, but the Wildcats did.
A trip to state is, in fact, a great unifying force, particularly when it comes a few days after a great dividing force, the Nov. 4 election. (Read the table on page 10A to see what I mean.) It’s even a unifying force between schools. At the start of this season, as in the past, Platteville and Southwestern held an early-season scrimmage. So for the Hillmen and the Wildcats to get to state together was excellent.
It has been really fun watching the Hillmen play this season. The heart-attack-inducing regional final win at River Valley one year ago was almost exactly duplicated by this season’s second regular-season meeting at Platteville High School. (Some wit on the radio said that if the state semifinal had been against River Valley, the Hillmen would have had Catholic Memorial right where they wanted them — up 2–0.) The regional final this year at River Valley wasn’t quite duplicated — the Blackhawks won the first set, the Hillmen won the next two, and the Blackhawks won set four — until the angina-inducing set five.
There is a lot of spirit in volleyball. Sometimes, if you don’t watch the referee’s signal, you can’t tell from the player reactions which team got the point, since everyone is hand-clapping and high-fiving on, it seems, every point except the last point of a match. The Hillmen (and apparently other teams) also do two pre-pregame-warmup chants, one of which starts with a whisper, both of which end with that unique quality of sound only high school girls can attain. (I wonder if the players know who Cannibal and the Headhunters or Wilson Pickett were, or “Land of a Thousand Dances.”)
I previously mentioned creating a verb — “to Stecklein,” as in becoming the victim of a thundering hit by Morgan Stecklein — but it seemed as if every player who was on the floor contributed. You could tell the Hillmen’s serving caused their postseason opponents fits, as balls went somewhere other than opponents intended them to go, or forced opponents to move uncomfortably to get them. (I always got a kick out of watching setter Jenna Phillips throw the ball three times her own height upward in the air for serves, or setter Rachel Emendorfer’s skipping as she served, while lefty Claire Tashner’s serves went the “wrong” way when they arrived at the back row.) I’m guessing a convenience store near the Updike home was regularly out of ice given how libero Briette Updike dived for spikes and serves. And teams found out that Stecklein wasn’t the only front-row player who could spike and block — to wit, Ashley Budden, Allison Woodworth, Faye Bailie and Maddie Carroll, as well as, when needed because of an injury, Marissa Marino off the bench in the regional final.
This particular state trip shows the behind-the-scenes contributions of many. The Platteville Sports Boosters rented a bus and paid for tickets for the sectional final at Whitewater High School Nov. 1. Nancy Ware shot the photo on page 1 last week that should have had her name on it. State fans got towels courtesy of QueenB Radio and the towel sponsors. Shannon Butson made his second state trip in as many years — one year removed from watching his son Logan quarterback the Hillmen at state, he drove the bus to Green Bay.
Two notes of discord have nothing to with the Hillmen, or for that matter the Wildcats. The Resch Center in Ashwaubenon is a fine facility that is so far away from this opposite corner of the state that it makes it difficult for fans to get to state. (The state girls basketball tournament moved to the Resch because, in the minds of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, neither the Kohl Center (too big), the Alliant Energy Center (too far from the UW campus) nor the Fieldhouse (too prehistoric and dilapidated) were sufficient for girls state.) The population center of Wisconsin is much closer to Madison than it is to Green Bay.
The other thing to notice is that three of the four state volleyball champions were parochial schools — Milwaukee’s Divine Savior Holy Angels in Division 1, Waukesha Catholic Memorial in Division 2, and Wausau Newman in Division 4. Catholic Memorial played 51 matches, including two out-of-state tournaments, a schedule that seems unlikely for a public school to be allowed to duplicate. Newman played nine more matches than Southwestern.
But that’s beside the point. Consider this: The Hillmen, which went to state this year, graduate only two seniors, Updike and Budden. Still, going to state this year was a major accomplishment, because the future is never guaranteed.