GARWIN — The Baxter volleyball team spent a little bit longer in the locker room after its match with Green Mountain-Garwin on Monday night.
They had a reason to celebrate.
The Bolts advanced past the second round of the postseason for the first time since 2009 following a four-set win over GMG. Baxter also is guaranteed a non-losing season, too, as it downed the Wolverines 25-15, 25-11, 24-26, 25-16 on the road during Class 1A Region 3 quarterfinal action.
“It feels amazing. I have never made it past first round since I have been in high school so it’s great,” senior Jordynn Wesselink said. “We are starting a new tradition at Baxter and this is a great way to start it.”
Strong efforts at the net by senior Jordynn Wesselink and sophomore Amber Weltha helped overcome an early injury to senior Mary Schabilion. Sophomore Sadie Meyer also played well in her place.
Wesselink finished with 20 kills, eight digs and four aces and Weltha tallied 16 kills and five blocks. Both got the Bolts (14-13) out quick in the opening set. Wesselink had a pair of kills in the first five points, and Weltha made it 6-1 with her first kill of the match.
GMG got within 9-5 a little bit later, but Baxter pulled away and grabbed a 1-0 lead in the match after senior Lexi Ewing served up her second ace of the set.
The second set was even until Baxter ended it on a huge run. GMG was tied with the Bolts five different times before Baxter scored seven straight to go up 12-5. The last two points on that run were back-to-back kills by Wesselink.
“She’s really stepped up in the last few matches and into the playoffs. She doesn’t want the season to end,” Baxter coach Scott Ranck said. “She has some of that senior urgency. She makes sure she puts it away almost every time she gets the chance.”
The Bolts used another 8-0 run push the advantage to 21-8. That run started and ended with Wesselink kills, but Meyer also served up three aces.
“Sadie Meyer’s serve was big for us in set two,” Ranck said. “Mary might have been able to play, but Sadie was doing fine so I stayed with her. We had some girls step up tonight in Mary’s absence. It was a good team effort.”
Weltha inched the Bolts even closer to another set win with consecutive kills. A Wesselink ace made the 2-0 advantage official.
“The first two sets, we came out very strong,” Wesselink said. ‘”Our hitters were on point and the passing was phenomenal. Those were two really good sets for us.”
The Bolts led 7-0 in each of the final two sets but only one of those ended in victory.
Meyer served up two more aces and Weltha had back-to-back kills to begin the third set. The Wolverines (8-17) chipped away at their deficit though.
They eventually closed to within one on four different occasions, but Baxter maintained an advantage with a 4-0 run that put it up 19-14. The lead was short-lived as GMG tied the set at 20-all and then snuck in a 26-24 victory to avoid the sweep.
“I think we took it easy. We were laid back and weren’t aggressive,” said Baxter junior setter Sydney Schmidt, who finished with 35 assists and four kills. “We were tipping too much.”
Three kills by Wesselink and two kills and a block by Weltha gave the visitors another 7-0 lead in the fourth set. This time, Baxter maintained its lead throughout and cruised to an easy win.
The closest GMG got was 14-12 on an ace by Eve Gallentine. The Bolts countered with a 6-0 run to get within five points of victory. The two teams then traded points the rest of the way, but Baxter won by nine.
“We set things up well with good passes, and the hitters did their thing. It was a good team effort,” Schmidt said. “That one felt really good. It was a big deal for us and we are excited for Janesville.”
Next up for the Bolts is top-ranked Janesville, which enters the regional semifinals at 32-7 but has not lost to a 1A school all season. The defending champions have dropped just one set to a 1A program — No. 7 Tripoli — this year.
After Wesselink and Weltha, four other Bolts had at least three kills. Freshman Hallee Rainsbarger and Schmidt tallied four each, while Meyer and sophomore Bekka Watt each had three.
Senior Sailor Hinegardner tallied 18 digs, Meyer finished with seven digs and five aces and Ewing collected eight digs.
The Bolts were 88-of-96 in serving and tallied 11 aces. Meyer was 24-of-27, and Schmidt finished 13-of-13.