Germantown senior all-around volleyball ace Megan Johnston partcipated in that thrilling, dynamic five-game dual dual meet loss to archrival Nicolet last season held before a boisterous crowd on the Knights' home court that decided the North Shore dual meet crown.
The talent level in that match was very high with several players off both sides earning some kind of college scholarship.
Flash forward to Thursday night before a much quieter and smaller crowd in the Warhawk gym. The talent level is a bit diminished on both sides, but the degree of "want-to" is still the same, as the Warhawks clinched no less than a share of the North Shore Conference dual meet crown with an impressive 26-24, 25-17, 25-19 victory over the Knights.
"Both of us have a lot of new girls out there," said Johnston, who was one of five Warhawks celebrating senior night, "but it's always a great match. Every year it's competitive and close."
With the win, Germantown improved to 6-0 in league meets with only a match at Homestead (5-1) on Tuesday night to close out the NSC dual slate. Nicolet, meanwhile, saw its hopes for another share of the championship evaporate as it is now 4-2.
Germantown has now won or shared a portion of the title in each of the last three seasons.
"We had a little bit of a slow start, but once we settled down, we were fine," said veteran Germantown coach Diane Harrod. "We just had to get rid of the jitters."
"The jitters" included a 9-3 start by Nicolet in the first game. The Warhawks started pushing back a little bit with the help of fine play by junior middle hitter Beth Kuske and Johnston, but the Knights held the lead until a trio of aces by senior libero Marisa Moser made it 21-19.
Nicolet would rally to tie the game three times, the last time at 24-all, but a Knight service error, one of nine by them in the game, and a kill by Warhawk senior rightside hitter Carly Sanfilippo closed out the win.
"We missed nine serves and we still only lost by two," said Nicolet coach Dann Jacobson. "We cut those in half, we probably win the game and then who knows what happens after that. ...And we're not so young anymore. It's getting towards the end of the season. I'd like to think that we'd keep getting better."
Instead, it was the Warhawks who got better. They ran off the first three points of the second game as the margin never dipped below two points.
Getrmantown scored six of the last seven points to close out the second game.
Nicolet put up a fight in the third set, and had a lead at 9-8, but then the Warhawks went on a 9-1 run and never looked back. The Warhawk advantage never dipped below four after that point.
Johnston said it was a fun and fulfilling way to spend senior night (other seniors included all-around Bethany Laubenheimer and rightside hitter Brianna Fox).
"We had to display a little more leadership this season," said Johnston, "but we're working hard, and we're hoping that we can put it all together before the end of the season. I thought everybody played great tonight."
Jacobson was pleased with the efforts of junior all-arounder Angie Morello and senior middle hitter Jessica Kloehn. He was also impressed with the efforts of the Warhawks.
"I give them a lot of credit," he said. "They don't have any one big star but they can distribute the ball. ...They have about four people they can go to, that's a nice luxury to have."
"Our margin of error is smaller."
Harrod was pleased with the setting this night, as it was able to get Kuske (one of Germantown's tallest players), more fully involved.
"And when we needed a big play, we were able to go to Maggie (Johnston's nickname)," said Harrod. "We were sound all the way around tonight. It's not always like that, but it was tonight."
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