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Cheesemakers find their groove
Times photo: Adam Krebs Monroes Abby Jacobson passes a ball while teammate Jess Leu (5) prepares for the play to develop during Tuesdays 3-0 win over Brodhead in the WIAA Division 2 state tournament.
MONROE - It took a little while to gain momentum, but when the Cheesemakers hit full stride Tuesday night, there was nothing Brodhead could do. Monroe knocked off the Cardinals in a WIAA Division 2 volleyball regional in straight sets, 25-21, 25-15, 25-13.

"We really executed off of free balls," Monroe head coach Dave Gersbach said. "Once we realized we could get side outs and get points off of that, it really helped our momentum."

The two squads went back-and-forth in the first game, with Monroe breaking an 18-18 tie and keeping the lead for good.

"We were so jacked and so excited," senior hitter Sarah Kloepping said. "We knew we had to pick up our serving, but it was minor. We knew we could do it."

One thing that haunted the Cheesemakers in the first game was their serves, with many falling out of bounds.

"We serviced erred a lot that first game. We gave them a lot of opportunities and a lot more chances than we should have," Gersbach said. "Once we calmed down and we got mentally focused, we only missed two serves in the second game, and that helped us immensely."

In the second game, the two squads sparred again, with Monroe catching a break mid-set. Kloepping stepped to the line after her team had taken an 8-7 lead on a side out and served four straight points, pushing the score to 12-7.

"It was great. Everyone was on their game," Kloepping said.

Moments later, Monroe got the ball back and it was Kirstie Hinojosa that found the groove, again serving four straight points and giving the Cheesemakers a 20-9 lead. In that span, several Monroe players gave life and limb to dig out balls all over the court and keep play alive, which built momentum with every point.

"There's nothing more to a coach, or to a volleyball player, than a big dig - that big defensive play," Gersbach said. "It gets in the head of the hitter, it gets in the head of a team when they get frustrated and can't find the floor. The girls were ready to play and they hustled."

Brodhead's problem was at both the service line and finding ways to keep the ball in play.

"This was our worst nightmare. We reverted back to Week 2 of volleyball," Cardinals head coach Erin Kammerer said. "We did not serve well and we did not attack well. They didn't have to dig anything. They got a lot of free balls and they did a nice job of doing something with it."

Moments into the third set the Cheesemakers again found a groove behind Hinojosa and opened up a 6-2 lead, never looking back.

"We're starting to play to our potential," Gersbach said. "We're coming around. This was definitely a step in the right direction."

Kloepping finished with a match-high seven kills for Monroe with Jaclyn Ditter and Jess Leu each adding four blocks. Sarah Donvito had 14 digs and Abby Jacobson added 13 assists.

For Brodhead, freshman Carly Mohns had four kills and three blocks with sophomore Taylor Douglas adding eight assists and four digs.

"Carly Mohns definitely stepped up. She was able to hit her corners and she came on with some nice big blocks," said Kammerer, whose team has returns nine of 13 players next year. "We had a disappointing ending for our seniors. I hope with the young girls getting a taste of this disappointment will be an advantage for next year."

Monroe now moves on to Edgerton, the No. 1 seed in the regional and the squad that bumped the Cheesemakers out of the tournament a year ago.

"We're all going to have fun and practice hard tomorrow. We're going to go for it," Kloepping said of the upset.