Regis spent time on both ends of the spectrum on Tuesday night, and no matter where they were, the Ramblers had an answer.
Whether they were clinging to a lead over Eau Claire Memorial late in a set or trying to pull off a rally to come from behind, it didn’t matter. Regis responded in both situations en route to a 27-25, 25-16, 25-19 sweep of the Old Abes in a matchup of schools residing less than a mile away from each other down Keith Street.
“We’ll always be happy with a win, obviously,” Regis coach Travis Eichner said. “Playing a four-block-away rival, you know they’re going to bring their best. They kept us on our toes for a while, had us up against the wall, and luckily we responded at the right time.”
The game had a bit of a friendly rivalry feel, as players from both sides of the net had some familiarity with each other.
“It’s really cool getting to see some people on other teams, because we play a lot of with each other in winter volleyball,” Regis outside hitter Bria Thalacker said. “So we really know each other, and we kind of know how we play. So that can be an advantage and a disadvantage.”
The two squads put on a show in the first set, with Regis running out to an early 15-9 lead with the help of some unforced errors from a Memorial team that’s still getting fully acclimated to the varsity game due to a less experienced roster. Most of the Ramblers’ early points came off unforced Memorial errors.
“We had some unforced errors early in the match, and give credit to Regis,” Memorial coach Kris Chapman said. “They capitalized on them.”
As they did all night long though, the Abes rallied. A kill by Hanna Nilsson sparked a run in which Memorial won 12 of 17 points to pull the score even at 22 apiece.
In the final points of the set, a couple of Memorial miscues allowed Regis to string two points together to claim the set.
The second set saw Regis again pull out to a big early lead, this time at 10-2 thanks to some big plays at the net by Grace Gilles and Elle Matson.
Memorial had another answer though, as a tandem block set off a string of points that brought the Old Abes to within three at 12-9 — powered by kills from Anna Hansen and Ana Bernal along the way.
“There was a lot of growth here tonight,” Chapman said. “We’re a young team, and to be in a gym that’s hot, and packed, and noisy, and it’s hard to hear — they haven’t played in an environment like this — and they never quit. That’s a very promising thing.”
Despite the gritty battle that Memorial gave them, the Ramblers found a way to hold on. They went on an 8-1 run late to win the set, capped by a booming kill by Teryn Karlstad.
The roles reversed a bit in the third set, as it was Regis’ turn to rally after Memorial held a lead midway through the set. An ace by Megan Halvorson put Memorial ahead 13-11, but eventually back-to-back aces from Gilles gave the Ramblers a 16-14 lead — one they would not relinquish.
“I think we played pretty good,” Thalacker said. “We need to work on our fundamentals a little bit, getting the ball in the court, staying positive. But I think we swung well, and we were really scrappy keeping the ball up.”
The contest pitted Division 1 Memorial against Division 3 Regis, but didn’t play out like a David versus Goliath match.
“Playing against a bigger school, obviously we’re motivated,” Eichner said. “We want to beat a Division 1 team. We want to beat any Division, but for some reason when you play a Division up above, you want to play harder. Their school is so good, you know it’s going to be a good fight.”
Matson finished with a match-high 12 kills for the Ramblers. Karlstad had nine kills, and Bekah Thurner made 19 digs.
Nilsson pounded nine kills for the Old Abes. Hansen tallied seven kills and was big at the net, making five blocks.
Memorial served particularly well, only committing one service error.
“It was a very good learning experience,” Chapman said. “And in my mind, a very positive experience to maybe push things a little bit more at practice tomorrow so we’re ready for Thursday after a night like this.”