The Shorewood girls volleyball team figured if it was going to make a little history, it might as well be dramatic.
Down two sets to none in their WIAA D2 regional final against St. Thomas More before a noisy and enthusiastic crowd in the Shorewood gym on Oct. 22, the Greyhounds decided they hadn't quite had enough yet this season, rallying for an impressive, 22-25, 19-25, 25-14, 25-20, 15-10 victory that gave them their first regional championship since the last time they were at state in 1990.
"It was pretty unbelievable," said sixth-year coach Ryan Roessler. "What made it more amazing is that More is one of the very best teams we've played all year. They defend so well and have a such a good serve/receive. They just took away our attack for the first two sets.
"But then we got back into it in the third set, and that got the crowd back into it, too ... this was simply one of the most amazing matches I've ever seen. For a team to come back in that kind of situation. Wow."
Shorewood, which benefited from a switch in regional assignments by the WIAA, was the top seed in its regional and defeated Audubon Tech (25-5, 25-5, 25-8) on Oct. 18 and Cudahy (25-4, 25-8, 23-25, 25-16) on Oct. 20 to advance to the final.
For their efforts, they will advance to a WIAA sectional semifinal at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27, against top-ranked Catholic Memorial. The winner will advance to the sectional final at Whitnall on Saturday, Oct. 29, with a berth in the WIAA state tournament in Green Bay, Nov. 3-5, on the line. The other semifinal features Kettle Moraine Lutheran against University School.
The Greyhounds have some good history in volleyball, but it's old history. They have the 1990 D2 state tournament berth, and in 1974 and 1975, in the early days of the girls tournament, they qualified for the state Class A tournament. In 1975, they finished second to Wauwatosa East under coach Sarah Kneser.
Since that 1990 state tournament berth, though, highlights have been few and far between, said Roessler.
He said his team is not going to be intimidated by Memorial, which has several state tournament titles on its record.
"It'll be different this time," he said. "Usually we have only a day to prepare for them (in regional competition), and it's usually at their place. But this time, it'll be a neutral site, and we'll have time to prepare."
The Greyhounds had only moments between sets to prepare themselves after falling behind More in the final.
It came down to that final set race to 15. Shorewood got the early lead, 9-5, but then the Cavaliers ran off four in a row to tie. Shorewood got a side out and then ran off a few more points in a row to take the lead and finish the match.
Roessler said the gym "went crazy" on match point. He thought it was the largest crowd he had ever seen here for a volleyball match.
"There was so much pressure on their side after they won the first two sets," Roessler said. "We had nothing to lose. We were just playing to win. We started out a little flat; we just weren't as aggressive those first two sets. We were more aggressive after that."
Sophomore outside hitter Olivia Kessenich had a big evening for the Greyhounds, as she had 11 kills, four aces and 20 digs, while sophomore setter and outside hitter/setter Olivia Reilly had 19 assists.
Roessler also noted senior outside hitter Maureen Patterson and senior middle blocker Sarah Clausen had big matches. He said the team's depth, which means it can go about nine deep, may have worn down the Cavaliers a bit.
"It's the deepest rotation we've had in years," he said. Patterson and Clausen are the only seniors on the squad, which also features two freshmen.
This win will be remembered, Roessler said.
"It was an unbelievable moment," he said. "There was a lot of celebrating going on afterwards."