MENOMONIE — A simple color carries a lot of weight for the Chi-Hi volleyball team.
The Cardinals won their 22nd match in 23 tries to start the season on Thursday, earning a Big Rivers Conference road sweep over Menomonie (25-13, 25-21, 25-13).
Chi-Hi (22-1, 3-0) pulled away to victory in each set despite an off night from the serving line.
“We didn’t serve very well tonight but the good thing is there’s going to be times when things don’t go well physically and it’s like how can you respond?” Chi-Hi coach Luke Heidtke said. “Our athletes are doing a really nice job of making sure they work together and collaborate and I think that was the big takeaway from tonight.”
The Cardinals have adopted a mentality they call ‘stay green’. Like a stoplight telling a driver to, the team wants to keep moving and focus on the next point and not linger on what happened previously. Chi-Hi players have green ribbons or shoelaces on their shoes for a nearby reminder to keep moving.
“I really think that’s what we did because we missed a lot of serves but I think we really focused on the next point with that,” Chi-Hi sophomore Paige Steinmetz said of the mindset.
Steinmetz led the Cardinals with 13 kills in a balanced effort up front featuring four players with at least seven kills. Maddie Hunt added nine kills from the middle while Sophie Robinson and Sami Perlberg had seven kills apiece as the Cards stayed perfect thus far in Big Rivers play.
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Chi-Hi has picked up where it left off from a Division 1 regional championship game appearance last fall. Early in the season the Cardinals finished second out of 40 teams at the UW-Stout Sprawl in Menomonie and on recent weekends have earned unbeaten tournament championships in Merrill and Waupun.
“I think it’s just really about our team culture and all of our members buying in,” Heidtke said of the early success. “We talk all the time about literally controlling our side of the court. That’s all we can do. It doesn’t matter who we play and that’s the mindset we’re going to have to have if we want to beat quality teams. We are a team that is capable of doing that if we trust our own process and that’s what we’re working on.”
Junior setter Maddy Bauer had 35 assists in running the offense and the trio of Perlberg, Steinmetz and Robinson each had a pair of aces. Robinson had 12 digs, followed closely by 11 from Ella Hutzler and 10 by Steinmetz. Bella Murry had three solo blocks at the net for the Cardinal defense.
Chi-Hi’s one loss came at the UW-Stout Sprawl in the championship game to River Falls, the only team to defeat the Cardinals in 2020 and so far in 2021. The perrenial bully of the Big Rivers, River Falls is once again stacked with talented and was ranked fourth in Division 1 in the latest Wisconsin Volleyball Coaches Association state coaches poll. But right now the Cardinals aren’t looking ahead to another meeting with the Wildcats, which is scheduled at the end of the regular season Oct. 14.
The team is focused inward on what it can do to improve upon as the Cards hit the second half of the regular season.
“I really think we’ve got to stay focused every point and we’ve got to be really confident with what we do and I think if we do that, that we can be really good,” Steinmetz said.
Chi-Hi jumps out of conference on Tuesday for a road matchup at Wisconsin Rapids before returning home to host New Richmond in Big Rivers action on Thursday, Sept. 30.
Thursday’s matchup in Menomonie was a ‘Dig Pink’ event for the Mustangs as the team hosted a variety of fundraisers to support Jamie Klatt, the mother of Menomonie junior varsity player Paityn Klatt, and the Klatt family as Jamie battles breast cancer. All the money from the event will go to help the Klatt family in their fight and it was a cause Heidtke and the Cardinals were happy to help support.
“It’s nice to have a conference of rivals but also friends and that’s what I feel a lot of the Big Rivers is,” Heidtke said.