For the Wauwatosa East girls volleyball team, its annual showdown with crosstown rival Wauwatosa West was much more than just an average nonconference match.
It was a chance for the Red Raiders to jumpstart the rest of their season with an important victory over a talented West team.
East overcame a slow start in the first set to roll to a 3-1 (25-21, 25-23, 19-25, 26-24) win in front of a packed gym at Wauwatosa East High School on Sept. 22 to collect its first win over its rival since 2012.
"I'm just on a cloud right now," Wauwatosa East senior middle blocker Johanna Taylor said. "Ever since I've been on the team, we haven't beaten them. It really is just a great feeling.
"Beating West is always on the checklist."
West, which entered on a five-match winning streak, took a 14-6 lead in the first set.
The Trojans led 19-15 before the Red Raiders went on a 6-1 run to take a 21-20 lead on a kill by junior outside hitter Lizzie Mizer. After a kill by West junior outside hitter Emily Wagy, East rattled off four straight points.
A block by Taylor gave the Red Raiders a 24-21 lead, while a botched set by West ended the set.
"We've had some slow starts, but we are a really poised team," Wauwatosa East coach Gary Tome said. "I'd like to get out of the gate quicker, but they level out and find a way to get back in matches. It drives me a little nuts, but I know they aren't going to quit."
Strong in the second
East carried its strong play into the second set, grabbing a 15-9 advantage. This time it was West that fought back, as the Trojans evened the set at 18-18 and took a 20-19 lead on an ace by junior libero Ericha Stuberg.
With the set tied at 21-21, sophomore outside hitter Chloe Tome put the Red Raiders up for good with a kill. Kills by West senior middle hitter Clare Honan and junior middle Hailey Wilson made it 24-23, but Rossner placed a hit just inside the line to put East up, 2-0.
East used a 6-0 run to take a 13-11 lead in the third set. But West answered with a 10-2 spurt to grab control in a 25-19 set win.
Just as East appeared as if it was going to easily close out the match with a win in the fourth set, West scored six straight points to take a 23-22 lead on a kill by Wagy.
"We kind of let up," Taylor said. "But then we realized it was now or never. We didn't want to play a fifth game."
A kill on a tip by junior setter Kelly Rampolla gave West set point at 24-23, but Honan served out of bounds to make it 24-24. A kill by Taylor made it 25-24 in favor of East, while the match ended on a net violation by the Trojans.
"We had game point," Wauwatosa West coach Kelly Dwyer said. "A fluke play happened where nine times out of 10 we hit the ball over like we should. Instead, we hit the ball around and played around with it. We made a mental error.
"We didn't have it tonight. East is a good team. They are a lot better than they have been in years past. They are a lot better than their record. It is hard to play in the Greater Metro."
Chloe Tome finished with 17 kills and 16 digs for East. Taylor had seven kills and eight blocks, while junior defensive specialist Hannah Brooks had 14 digs and three aces.
"I'm really proud because we beat a great team tonight," Gary Tome said. "Kelly is a class guy. They run a great program. It is nice to get a nice, sound win against a good team. There's a little extra with them being our crosstown rivals, and they've had our number for awhile."
East has had its ups and downs in the loaded Greater Metro Conference this season, but the Red Raiders are hoping their strong showing against West will create momentum as the postseason draws near.
"Beyond the rivalry, it is a very nice time to beat a team that is 20-6 and was hot," Gary Tome said. "I think this can really catapult us."
Honan had 18 kills and five blocks for the Trojans. Wagy added 14 kills, Stuberg had 18 digs and senior defensive specialist Anna Baish had four aces.
West, which finished third in the Woodland West, will look to bounce back to finish Woodland East crossover play strong before the conference tournament on Oct. 13.
"We played well for 10 points at a time," Dwyer said. "Just the little stuff came and got us, like not moving on defense like we had been for the last week. Coming in, we've been playing well. I was surprised to say the least with how it turned out.
"We want a conference tournament championship. That's our big picture right now."