The finish of the North Shore Conference girls volleyball tournament on Oct. 15 at Germantown wasn't what veteran Nicolet coach Dann Jacobson was looking for, what with the finals loss to Grafton.
But if the 20-year veteran coach is known for anything, Jacobson does have a perspective on things. Because that tournament runner-up finish coupled with the unbeaten dual-meet run the Knights turned in this fall still easily secured Nicolet its fifth league championship since 2008 and its sixth since Jacobson took over in 1996.
"In the big picture, other than the finals, I was relatively happy with how we played and the effort we gave," he said. "I was disappointed in our focus and energy against Grafton. We had 31 errors in the two-game match, and that is far too many errors to beat a team like Grafton. I will certainly take the majority of the blame for that.
"I need to make sure my players are in the right frame of mind before a match. I also need to give Grafton a lot of credit. Grafton worked extremely hard and played nearly flawless volleyball. That was one of the best defensive efforts we have seen this year. They did not anything fancy; they just executed their game plan to near perfection."
The Knights finished the North Shore dual-meet season at 7-0 in match play and 21-3 in set results. Nicolet has won NSC crowns under Jacobson in 1996, 2002, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2016. They closed out the North Shore dual-meet season with a 25-13, 25-12, 25-9 win over Port Washington on Oct. 13.
Jacobson still feels the Knights have momentum, and they will need it as they enter the tough WIAA D1 sectional at DSHA. They earned the fourth seed behind sixth-ranked Brookfield East; eighth-ranked and two-time defending state champion DSHA; and state power Brookfield Central.
They will host Milwaukee Lifelong Learning in a regional semifinal at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20. If they win, they will likely host fifth-seeded Tosa West in a regional final at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22.
Sectional semifinals will be at Brookfield Central on Thursday, Oct. 27, with Nicolet likely taking on top-seeded East. DSHA is the two seed and Central the three. The sectional final is Saturday, Oct. 29, at DSHA.
In the conference tournament, things began well for the Knights, as they beat all three of their pool opponents: Germantown (28-26, 25-19), Milwaukee Lutheran (25-17, 25-13) and Cedarburg (20-25, 25-17,15-6). In the playoffs, they defeated Homestead, 25-20-25-23, in the semifinals before falling to Grafton, 25-16, 25-22.
Standouts for the Knights are middle blocker MacKenzie Eford, setter Kara Conley, libero Laura Keyser, middle blocker Leah Weiler, and outside hitters Leah Schmirler and Cori Meyers.
"I think one of the reasons we have been successful this year is our offensive diversity," said Jacobson. "On any given night, we can have any one of five different kids lead us in kills. Not only do we have several different offensive weapons, we have setters who make really good decisions and deliver a really nice ball. Our serve receive has also improved dramatically as the season has progressed."