By Brian Besch
The Onalaska Lady Cats started the season off with a victory Tuesday, taking a 25-7, 25-7, 25-12 match over Goodrich.
The match wasn’t in doubt for the hour played, as the Onalaska girls used well-placed serves and spikes to come out on top.
“We have been working pretty hard the last 10 days,” Onalaska coach Danna Mitschke said. “Last week, we had three days-worth of scrimmages. We got some rest on Sunday and were able to bounce back this week. We did a lot of learning, so we have common language, but things are going really well and our coaches are doing good.
“The one thing I asked them to do today was to maintain their level of play the entire time. We did that for the most part, but in the third game of the match, it got a little messy.”
Goodrich trailed 5-4 in the second game and held a 4-2 advantage in the third before a run from the Lady Cats.
“I have an amazing group of young ladies and I actually moved two JV players up tonight,” Mitschke said. “Destiny Lindley and Faith Tyerman came in and worked seamlessly with the varsity, doing a good job for us. Those that are on the bench with me have put in as many hours as the ones on the floor. Their desire to be out here is no less and I respect everything that they have done. I am working to get everybody in every match. So far, we have been able to do that. We are working on our trust, our culture and our communication, but I am really proud of how they have come together.”
This is Mitschke’s first coaching victory in seven years, when she was the coach once before at Onalaska. Working in the math department, she was asked to take over the Lady Cat program as the summer began.
The Onalaska group is said to have leaders in many spots. Keori Rogers is the big hitter on the team. Setter Savanna Benningfield has been a positive influence on the floor and Kalli Saucier is a back row veteran. Those three athletes are the only upperclassmen on the team. The coach also mentioned A.J. Pinkert, the only sophomore. Mitschke sees quickness in Pinkert and says she has earned her spot by leading conditioning and practices.
“All of these kids are leaders in the classroom, they are leaders on the floor, and they are leaders in the community. I think they know what comes with that and what the expectation is. They are invested.”
For Goodrich, Tuesday was a chance for the Class 1A school to play against a 3A program. The young Lady Hornets are learning as the game goes, with some playing out of position.
“We are down three, and both of my setters are out,” Goodrich coach Pinellafie Johnson said. “We were working with one (at setter) and she got sick, and then I trained another one and she got sick. The other day when we scrimmaged Coldspring, they looked really good. It is just a matter of us all staying healthy. We’ve got a good team and they are clicking together really well.”
Johnson said she still had a few out in the Coldspring scrimmage, but having one setter in that match made a large difference in the team’s performance.
Goodrich has scheduled larger schools throughout its non-district slate to prepare the squad for league play.
“That is what I need for them to do – step it up and not feel like you can’t compete,” Johnson said. “I am just used to playing that schedule to try to get them grounded. I told them that they are not going to win them all, because we do have a big schedule. I told them that this was to get them prepared and not scared. They will get it after a couple of games.”
When all return, the team will rely on a freshman setter, Tanyreauna Garrett.
“This is a big step for her, because junior high was nowhere near this. She is just jumping into varsity, but she is doing an awesome job. My hitter and blocker, Breya Passmore, and Aralyn Angel defensively – I am going to rely on also to pick up all those balls. They are going to be motivated, we just have to get them competitive, not just be out there on the court.”
The game Friday will be a rematch between the two teams, but played in Goodrich at 4:30 p.m.