Simply put, Saturday night's WIAA girls volleyball sectional final at Watertown between top-ranked Menomonee Falls and underdog Mukwonago presents a strong contrast in expectations.
Mukwonago has everything to gain while Falls wants to keep the dream of a first-ever state championship firmly intact.
"You lose you're done," said Falls coach J.C. Bruns. "The hopes of six seniors and three, four-year letterwinners would be done. A run towards a state title would be done."
"But in reality I'm not worrying about this group showing up."
Those three four-year letterwinners are All-American outside hitter Simone Lee, setter Abby Becker and outside hitter Katherine Von Bank.
Mukwonago coach Mary Pocius knows the difficulty of the task ahead of her squad.
"We played them once in our own tournament (back in the second week of the season) and we lost in two," she said. "...They're a good team and Simone (Lee) is Simone, she's going to get her points. We just have to do our best to get points when she's not."
"We really don't have anything to lose. No one expects us to win, so we should be loose, but they (Falls) are number one for a reason."
Falls was a state semifinalist in 2012.
Both teams advanced to the 7 p.m. Saturday sectional final with comparatively easy wins Thursday night in sectional semifinal play at Germantown.
Falls dispatched Oconomowoc, 25-12, 25-18, 25-13; while Mukwonago took care of the host Warhawks, 25-22, 25-19, 25-20.
For Falls, it was a light workout, as it trailed for a grand total of one point over the course of the evening.
"We wanted to play a nice clean game and with relatively few exceptions, we did that," said Bruns. "We've been working a lot on our defense lately. We know we have the offense, but we also saw teams get to us from time-to-time. We needed to shore that up."
'We're not where we need to be but we're getting there."
Lee and Becker agreed as they both noted that practices have been particularly intense lately.
"We're excited to get back (into action)," said Lee, noting that the team has only played two matches in the last two weeks. "We wanted to get after it in every sense of the word. Just keep moving forward and doing all the little things correctly."
"The practices have been very hard lately," Becker said, "because everything coming up will be tougher. ...We're just trying to make sure that we do everything right the first time."
Bruns said the team has also been working hard on diversifying its offense noting that middle blockers Erin Otzelberger and Lyndsey Bassler both had "great matches".
"What they're doing really helps open things up on the outside," said Bruns.
He also praised the unselfishness of Becker, who is a hitter during the club season but helps the high school club out by becoming a setter each fall.
"She has the unenviable task of having to shift back, so it takes her a little longer to get settled in (at the start of the season)," said Bruns, "but I'll take her at any percentage of effectiveness over just about anyone else."
"And right now, she's just rolling."
For first-year Germantown coach Ted Gollakner, the loss to Mukwonago was a disappointing end to the season.
"There were some heartbreaking moments tonight," he said, "but we kept starting slow and that has been our MO all season. We started to slow tonight and it was hard to come back against a good team."
"But give Mukwonago credit. They played great for long stretches. We would make a couple of good plays, play some good defense but then a play would happen and that would keep momentum on their side."
It was back and forth in the first set until when Mukwonago went on a 6-1 run that extended an 18-16 lead to an insurmountable 24-17 advantage. Germantown made a small push, getting it to 24-22, but then a Warhawk shot into the net any any chances.
In the second game, an 11-5 run in the middle extended a 9-8 advantage to 20-13.
Again Germantown pushed back, cutting it to 20-18, but Mukwonago closed the set with a 5-1 effort.
In the third set, Germantown had a 2-1 lead when the roof caved in as Mukwonago went on a 10-0 tear.
Germantown got it to within three at 16-13 but that was as close as it would get. Over the course of the match, Mukwonago's block proved to be too strong for the Warhawks.
The loss closed a great ending run for the Warhawks, who had been 8-1 over their last nine matches before tonight's defeat. They had overcome injuries and illness but Gollakner said they really missed junior middle hitter Kayla Budgins who missed most of the campaign with an elbow injury.
"It was a great playoff atmosphere tonight," said Gollakner. "I just wish we could have given everyone a little bit better of a show."
Seniors for the Warhawks include outside hitter Emily Hillmann, backrow specialist Jessica Baehr, setter Paige Groth, defensive specialist Lauren Schleicher and middle hitter Elizabeth Kuske.
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