Warhawks do whatever it takes to secure share of title

Controversial strategy leads to tie with Nicolet in volleyball

Oct. 17, 2011

The way the North Shore Conference sets up its two-tiered process for the girls volleyball championship invites decisions that might be akin to driving within 100 yards of the nearest refuse dump.

In some people's nostrils, it just doesn't quite pass the smell test.

Take what happened in the conference tournament Saturday at Cedarburg. Nicolet entered the tournament as the top seed having won the regular season dual meet title with a thrilling five-set victory over Germantown two weeks ago.

That outcome put the two teams in opposite four-team pools for the tournament and gave the Knights some leverage in determining which team would be the overall conference champion as the dual meets are weighted slightly more heavily than the tournament is. In short, they could come out of pool play, make it to the championship final, lose to Germantown and still be crowned NSC champion.

Tough road for Germantown

Based on the scoring system the league uses, Germantown would need to win the league tournament and have Nicolet finish third in the tournament to get a share of the league crown.

The only way the Warhawks could really make that happen is if they were to finish second in their pool and then beat Nicolet (which won its pool) in the crossover semifinals. That way, Nicolet could finish no better than third in the tournament and the Warhawks would have a chance at a share of the title if they went on to win the championship final.

The two teams are miles ahead of any other squad in the conference (Nicolet is fourth in the state and Germantown ninth) and were heavily favored to win their pools and eventually meet in a championship re-match in the tournament final, where the Warhawks could win the tournament and maybe get a little bit of revenge on the Knights, but not have a chance at the overall conference title.

But that's not what happened.

"We beat Cedarburg and we beat Grafton (in their first two matches of pool play)," said Germantown coach Diane Harrod, "and then we lost to Milwaukee Lutheran (15-25, 26-24, 15-10) while we had some of our bench players in. I think Dann (Knights coach Jacobson) knew that we were playing to lose that game.

"It was the only way we could do it (win a share of the title). We still had to beat Nicolet (in the semifinal) and then win the tournament, but I talked to my kids beforehand. They did not want to end up in second."

And they didn't.

A share of the title

The Warhawks beat Nicolet, which had won its pool, by a 25-19, 29-27 count in the semifinal and then downed Homestead 18-25, 25-7, 15-6 in the championship final. Nicolet finished third in the tournament as expected.

With that decision, Germantown claimed a share of its second straight NSC title, the 12th overall in 31 years for Harrod, and also entered this week's WIAA tournament play with momentum.

"We felt that we still had to prove ourselves," said Harrod. "I told them to try it because we're (Nicolet and Germantown) both pretty equal and we ended up sharing the conference title."

How did the way it all came down sit in Jacobson's eyes?

Let's just say, he drove by the refuse dump and didn't like what he smelled.

"To watch Germantown lose and the manner in which they lost was surprising," Jacobson said. "It is an interesting dilemma, do we do whatever we can to win the conference championship or do we play to win every game and accept whatever fate comes our way?

"If winning or sharing the title is your ultimate goal and purpose for playing then that is what you do. The Germantown coach and the players made a decision to go for the championship. Last season we were in the same position as Germantown was this year, and I had people telling me to do the same thing. We played to win every match and took second in the conference.

"Ultimately, it is my opinion that you should try to play your best, give your best effort, and try to win each game. Even if it means we do not win a conference title, I have to ask my players to give their best effort and I have to coach them to the best of my ability.

"I give Germantown all the credit in the world for beating us and winning the tournament. They played better than we did in the match on Saturday. (But) If I was coaching the Milwaukee Lutheran team in that (pool play) match I would have been upset that my opponent was not giving me their best effort."

Living with decision

Harrod and the Warhawks are going to live with their decisions and are making no apologies for them as they feel they played within the rules to earn this title.

"We still had to play the game, we still had to beat Nicolet," she said.

Emma Brunkhorst led the Warhawks with 35 kills including 20 blocks while Taylor Edmonds had 12 tip kills and 26 overall kills. Harrod also praised the efforts of Marisa Moser in the back row and noted that libero Megan Johnston had 19 kills and a great all-around game.

Harrod was also extremely happy with Bethany Laubenheimer, who spelled Sydney Mortl, who is still being used sparingly after recovering from an early season injury.

"We're playing with a great deal of confidence now," said Harrod.

Germantown secures NSC title

UP NEXT: The Warhawks are seeded second in the difficult Watertown sectional. The host Goslings are the top seed and ranked third in the latest state coaches' poll, while second-seeded Germantown is ninth, third seed Arrowhead is 10th and fourth seed Menomonee Falls is sixth. Germantown will host Milwaukee Vincent on Oct. 20 in a regional final and will host the winner of Homestead-Sussex Hamilton in a regional final on Oct. 21 at 7 p.m.

Sectional semifinal play is slated for Oct. 27 at Waukesha West with the final on Oct. 29 at Watertown. Germantown lost a thrilling five-set match to Falls in the sectional final last season.

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