There was a feeling of disappointment the first time it happened. The second time it happened there was a sense exasperation.
Fort Atkinson had set-point in the second set six times and managed to lose. The Blackhawks had set-point three times in the third set and lost again.
The Blackhawks reset in the fourth set and won the fifth set to take a 25-18, 24-26, 24-26, 25-12, 15-10 victory against visiting Monroe in Badger South girls volleyball on Thursday at Fort Atkinson High School.
When the fate of the fifth set hung in the balance, it was junior Emma Mans who came up with a crucial tip over the blockers to take a 9-8 lead and it was Mans who buried a pair of aces to give the Blackhawks the cushion to pull away to victory.
“Emma is a total gamer,” Fort Atkinson head coach Liz Gnatzig said. “She loves a challenge and she loves to have the ball in tough situations and she stays so composed throughout. She doesn’t get nervous, she listens and if you tell her how to execute something, you know the next ball, that’s exactly what she’s going to do.”
Mans finished with 23 kills and three aces. Fellow junior Rylie Steffes led the team with 26 kills.
Mans happened to be the hitter in the second set who sent a shot just past the shadow of the back line to end the set.
Mans had an opportunity to end the third set on the first set-point, but she sent that one long too. The Blackhawks thought the ball deflected off of the Monroe blockers, but the official didn’t budge. The set ended four points later when Mans was ruled to have been in the net.
That’s when the Blackhawks had to do some soul searching.
They did and it was evident as the fourth set was never in question.
“I think what changes was that they got together, talked about what was amiss and the whole night they were trying to find rhythm,” Gnatzig said. Monroe played a more deliberate style and slowed the Blackhawks down to a pace they were uncomfortable with. “We were really struggling with that in games 1, 2 and 3. In game 4, everything became a lot more fluid.”
Facilitating the offense was sophomore setter Callie Krause, who had 37 assists.
“There was a lot more communication on the court and there was a lot more initiative taken by our setters and our offense to not just get the ball over the net, but make sure it was a calculated play,” Gnatzig said. “We needed to make sure we were changing up the tempo of our own play on the net. As we saw that success, I think we built on that momentum and that’s how we finished set 4, and then set 5.”
Fort Atkinson will return to action on the road against Stoughton on Thursday at 7 p.m.