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Building for the tournament
Argyle senior Tracy Dammen (14) and Danielle Treuthardt (6) go up for a block in a match at the Darlington Invitational Saturday.
DARLINGTON - As the volleyball season winds down, coaches like to make a few last adjustments to their lineups. Adjustments like finding the substitutes who can fill in for an injured or sick player; allowing rotations to match chemistry; and to let their teams just play.

"It's good to get a lot of games in, especially this late in the season," said first-year Darlington coach Pam Ritchie after Saturday's Darlington Invitational. "I love to play this many games, I just wish that we could have more of this, but you really can only have so many in a year. We played in the Six Rivers Tournament (early in the season), so it's the same kind of thing."

With playoffs only a week away, a late-season tournament can be just what a struggling team may need to close out the season strong. An eight-team tournament allows for strong competition and the chance for schools to work on some of the little things.

"For us I was hoping to improve ourselves going into the state tournament. We wanted to have a good showing today and give everybody a look," Pecatonica head coach Cher Schliem said. "It seemed like we could put a game together, but then we'd shoot ourselves in the foot. We are our own worst enemy at times. We're consistently inconsistent."

East Dubuque ended up battling for the championship over Barneveld, but several area teams had good showings. Darlington went 5-1 in pool play, losing only one game to New Glarus. In the semifinals against Barneveld, the Redbirds lost the first game, but rallied to take the second game. The Eagles, however, won the decisive third game.

"At times we were scrappy. They play played defense really well at times too," Ritchie said. "I'm really happy with the fact that we won that second match against Barneveld. We have a kind of a team that after losing we tend to play down. But they brought themselves up."

New Glarus also made it to the four-team semifinals after going 3-3 in pool play, splitting matches with Darlington, Pecatonica and Benton.

"It's a really good competitive tournament and we always do really well here," said New Glarus head coach Lacy Bloedorn, whose team was swept out of the semifinals by East Dubuque. "Today was no different. We made it to the second round so it's nice for our confidence."

Pecatonica and Benton each went 2-4 in pool play, splitting the head-to-head match up. On the other side, Argyle and Shullsburg each went 2-4, splitting the head-to-head match up. Barneveld was 3-3 in pool play and East Dubuque finished 5-1.

"I didn't sleep last night because I was so nervous. It went really well," said Ritchie, who is in her first year as head coach and was hosting her first tournament. "Our girls like (hosting a tournament). They are really good at setting it up."

Darlington has a tough task ahead to close out the regular season. On Tuesday, the Redbirds travel to Southwestern and Thursday host Iowa-Grant in a breast cancer awareness game.

"We have two big games left. Southwestern is the conference champ and Iowa-Grant is a very good ball club," Ritchie said. "Practice will be tough. We need to continue to move and continue to move forward and work on the things that we need to do. We need to compete all the time."

New Glarus, which had just seven players at the invite, is at Waterloo Tuesday and home against Cambridge Thursday.

"Only winning one (conference match), they are kind of down in the dumps. It's nice getting some confidence going into these next two games - we won a lot of games. Both (upcoming matches) are winnable," Bloedorn said. "We had a girl gone with strep throat and some family vacations and other girls that couldn't make it. They stepped it up unbelievably, playing with just seven girls."

Pecatonica closes out the regular season with two road games - at Monticello and at Juda while Argyle goes to Black Hawk and Albany.