Girls face defending D1 champion Divine Savior Holy Angels at 3:30 after Garvens leads OHS to semifinal win
And now there are two, just two, and late Saturday afternoon, one of the two teams, Oconomowoc or Divine Savior Holy Angels, will be crowned the 2015 WIAA D1 state volleyball champion.
DSHA, the defending D1 state champ, is not a surprise. It has been a power in girls volleyball for years. Oconomowoc, however, is another story.
This year, for the first time in the program’s history, OHS won the Wisconsin Little Ten conference championship. It also won a WIAA sectional title, downing favored Arrowhead in the final.
Then, on Thursday night at the Resch Center in Green Bay, Cooney beat Neenah, another traditional power in girls volleyball, to advance to the semifinals last night where it stunned Verona, the champion of the Big Eight conference, to advance to this afternoon’s title game.
Not bad for a team that is barely mentioned in the program that the WIAA distributes to fans attending the tournament. In fact, OHS was the last team mentioned in the section featuring the schools competing in D1, and if you look at the word count given to it, compared to teams like, DSHA, the listing is miniscule. Then there are several pages devoted to the history of the tournament and the teams that have competed. No mention of OHS. None.
Ok, to be fair to the WIAA, there is no mention of Oconomowoc because this is the first time a Cooney team has ever competed and at this level. And this afternoon, it will be the first time a Cooney team battles for a state title.
OHS won the right by upsetting Verona Friday night, 3-1. The previous night, Verona upset top-ranked Burlington, 3-2, after losing the first two sets to Burlington in one of the tournament’s biggest surprises.
But last night, Cooney, unswayed by Verona’s success, prevailed 25-20, 22-25, 25-23, 25-17 in a 7 p,m. semi-final match played before a small but highly vociferous group of fans. With the Cooney football team also playing last night, at home, for a chance to go 12-0 on the season, Cooney fans were conflicted and about 10,000 decided to follow the football team. Not a bad choice, as OHS rallied before falling to the Wahawks, 28-21, in a battle between border teams.
But they also missed a gritty, gutty performance by another great Oconomowoc team that showed once again that despite not having the credentials of some of the other teams, OHS belongs among the state’s elite high school volleyball teams.
OHS also demonstrated that it may have more balance and depth than any other team at Green Bay. It is not a perfect team and there have been times at Green Bay when its weaknesses, especially on defense, were evident. But it is an amazingly resilient team with tremendous heart.
The Cooney depth was never more apparent than last night when sophomore Amanda Garvens stepped up big time to lead her team to the four-set win. Garvens, who played up front and in the back line at times, recorded a match-high 12 kills to go with her 12 digs. Add in Leah Fenske’s 11 kills, Heather Moutvic’s 8, Nicole Shanahan’s 7, and Hailey Leader’s 6, and you have a powerful, versatile attack that few teams can match.
Setting them up all night were Anna Berghoefer and Demi Rae Dunham with 24 and 20 assists each. Leading the team in digs was Natalie Perrault with 16. For the match, OHS recorded 47 kills to Verona’s 33.
In this afternoon’s championship, set to begin at 4:35, OHS faces DSHA, which defeated D. C. Everest on Thursday night, 3-0, and Appleton North in three sets last night. In addition to capturing the D1 crown last season, the Dashers won in 2001 and were the second in 2012. This is the team’s eighth appearance at state.