EXETER – The Bruning-Davenport/Shickley Eagles (26-4) and the Exeter-Milligan Timberwolves (17-13) have stepped on the volleyball court twice this season, with the Eagles owning a pair of straight-set wins over the Timberwolves.
Exeter-Milligan will get one more shot at the Eagles, however, as the two teams meet at Fillmore Central High School in Geneva on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the D2-3 district final.
With a 4-8 start to the 2019 season, co-head coaches Quinten Loontjer and Lisa Kanode were probably not giving much thought at the time to playing in a district final, but instead just trying to find wins on the schedule.
The two coaches had taken over for former head coach Darcy White, who retired after the 2018 season. During White’s span as head coach, Exeter-Milligan won Class D-1 state championships in 2009, 2010, 2012 and D-2 titles in 2015 and 2017.
After the 4-8 start the Timberwolves started to find their game and closed out the season with a three-game win streak and an 11-4 record over their final 15 matches. That included victories over C-2 opponent’s Cross County (23-9); Lourdes Central Catholic (23-10) and Johnson County Central (18-12).
Loontjer shared his thoughts on the season and how the team has reached where they are now.
“The season has been a roller-coaster ride, but it has been very exciting to watch these girls develop and grow just in the last couple of months. If you would have asked an opinion about this team in August versus now, I’m not sure anybody could have predicted the amount of growth and change that they have undergone,” Loontjer said. “They are definitely growing together and connections are getting much stronger. Their team bond, chemistry and resilience has definitely matured with them.”
The Timberwolves have three players who’ve racked up better than 175 kills this season. Leading the way is junior Cammie Harrison with 197 while sophomore Cameran Jansky is second with 183 and Jaiden Papik third with 175.
At the service line the Timberwolves have York News-Times’ area stat leader Anna Sluka with 65 aces and 318 digs. Jansky’s 34 blocks leads the team, too. Sophomore Emma Olsen is the quarterback of the offense with 578 set assists.
So what does the Exeter-Milligan coaching staff have in mind facing the D-2 juggernaut in their third attempt?
“This time we have the game plan to focus more on what we are going to do, rather than what they bring to this match,” Loontjer said. “In past matches, we focused a lot on what they were doing and how to stop it, rather than what we were going to do to make them stop us.
“These girls have been a real blessing to have for our first year out coaching, especially considering all of the changes they had to undergo during the offseason. We are excited that we have earned a spot and the right to play for the chance to go to the state tournament. We’re going to go out and give it our best shot and see what happens.”
The D-2 state tournament gets underway next Thursday with all first-round action at Lincoln Northeast High School.