BLOOMER — Coming into Thursday night, the Bloomer volleyball team only needed one win to claim at least a share of the Heart O’North Conference championship.
That alone wasn’t going to satisfy the Blackhawks, though.
Bloomer went 3-0 at the conference quad, defeating Chetek-Weyerhaeuser, Barron and Ladysmith to close out the conference season undefeated and win the championship outright for a third league title in a row.
“That (title) means a lot to us. It just shows our determination and how we can do stuff together, what we can accomplish,” Bloomer libero Kendall Zeman said.
It has been a dominant season for the Blackhawks in the conference, and to close it out without a loss at 14-0 made it even sweeter.
“(The conference title) has been our goal,” Bloomer coach Liz Bohl said. “We kind of had an up and down start, and our goal was to level off in the higher range and keep going up and not have those lows.”
Bloomer entered the quad with a two-game lead atop the standings with three left to play, and promptly took care of business. The Blackhawks’ three opponents challenged them at times, but in the end Bloomer always found ways to close things out.
Long scoring streaks were the theme of the night, as the Blackhawks utilized at least one in every single set to pull away from the opposition.
“We did some good things,” Bohl said. “We played together. We played through a couple of rough patches, we came above and had some really good digs and hits. People came through. That’s the big takeaway for me. People did what they were supposed to do and handled the pressure.”
Bloomer 2, Chetek-Weyerhaeuser 0
In the first match of the night, Bloomer made big runs in the middle of both sets and fended off late rallies to hold on for a victory.
With the score tied at 7-7 in the first set, Sidney Kostner served the Blackhawks to seven straight points with the help of the Bloomer hitters. That included Jessica Barr, who unleashed a thunderous spike with the Blackhawks leading 10-7 that put the Bulldogs back on their heels.
Bloomer eventually rode its run to a 19-9 lead. The Bulldogs rallied late, but Bloomer survived with the help of a pair of Zeman aces to take the set 25-19.
The second set was much of the same. With the score tied at six, the Blackhawks won six consecutive points on Bailey McConaughey’s service in which the junior hit two aces.
With a 14-7 lead, the Blackhawks rode out some small momentum swings to claim the set 25-21.
Grace Post and Kenadi Poirier led Bloomer with five kills apiece. Zeman made 12 digs on the defensive side of things.
Bloomer 2, Barron 0
In a matchup between the top two teams in the conference standings, Bloomer followed the same script from the first match to emerge on top.
The Golden Bears kept things interesting early, matching Bloomer blow for blow. With the teams tied at 12 points apiece, the Blackhawks finally found their sweet spot and went on to win 12 of the next 14 points to win the set. Zeman and Chloee Swartz got things started with their serves, and Bloomer got the help of some Barron miscues.
McConaughey set off another run early in the second set to put Bloomer ahead 9-5. Late in the set, Bloomer routinely won two points for every one for Barron to close out the win.
Post was the sole leader in kills in the match with six. Shaina Zwiefelhofer chipped in with five and also had two aces and 11 digs.
Bloomer 2, Ladysmith 0
Ladysmith gave Bloomer its toughest test of the night in the first set, but the Blackhawks weathered the storm to finish off Heart O’ North play unbeaten.
The Lumberjacks tied the score at 19 all late in the opening set, but Bloomer reeled off four straight points to pull away.
“We just had to stick together and keep pushing forward,” Zeman said. “Just stay as a team and get everything that we could.”
After falling behind 3-0 to start the second set, Bloomer scored five straight points and eventually won 12 of 19 points to get an advantage over Ladysmith. They closed out the set by taking seven of the final eight points.
Post had six kills, and McConaughey had five. Zeman and Swartz both made nine digs.
Bloomer will be off until next Thursday, when the No. 2 seeded Blackhawks will host the winner of the match between Prescott and Amery in the Division 2 regional semifinals.
They’re riding a lot of momentum into the playoffs, where they’re aiming to make a deep run. The Blackhawks reached the sectional finals a year ago.
“It’s tournament time. Everyone comes ready to play, it’s going to be tough. We need to bring it,” Bohl said.
The players are planning on doing just that. Zeman said they’re going to remain focused on the ultimate goal.
“We’ve just got to stay strong and just start all over. We can’t take anything for granted and just got to keep pushing through,” she said.