From the time it lost its rivalry match in late September, the Wauwatosa West girls volleyball team set a goal to win its conference tournament.
The Trojans nearly pulled it off, as they took second place at the Woodland Conference tournament last week, going 2-0 in pool play and taking down Woodland West champion Greendale in the semifinals before falling to Pewaukee in the championship match.
"The girls really focused on that goal since the end of our conference season right before we started crossovers," Wauwatosa West coach Kelly Dwyer said. "The (Wauwatosa) East game and the crossovers were a build-up to make a run in the conference tournament."
West advanced to the semifinals by going 2-0 in pool play against South Milwaukee and Shorewood on Oct. 13. The Trojans began the night by easily dispatching the Rockets in two sets, 25-15, 25-15.
Facing Shorewood for the fourth time this season, West pulled out a 25-23 win in the first set before closing the match with a 25-16 victory.
Clare Honan had 27 kills, four blocks and three aces over the two matches. Margaret Radske had 22 digs and four aces, Kelly Rampolla had 27 assists, Emma Elliott added 22 assists and Breanna Weigman blocked three shots.
"We knew if we wanted to beat them for a fourth time, we would have to play a solid game," Dwyer said. "In the first game, they brought it to us and made it close. After beating them, I think we took the wind out of their sails and convincingly beat them the second game. I really liked the way our girls held their composure against a team that really didn't want to lose to us again.
"Margaret Radske played really well in the back row for us, leading both games in digs and one game in aces. Breanna Weigman had a really nice game at the net for us against South Milwaukee, picking up some nice blocks."
West's opponent in the semifinals was Greendale, which went 5-0 in Woodland West play and 3-0 in crossover matches in the regular season, including beating the Trojans in four sets.
This time around, West swept the Panthers in two sets, coming away with set wins of 27-25 and 25-23.
"Going into the game, we knew it was going to be a tough game for us to win, but I got the feeling Friday during practice that the girls kinda had a silent confidence about them going into the game," Dwyer said. "They were very relaxed, not overthinking it and just ready to go play volleyball. It was a complete team win."
With Greendale trying to take Honan out of the game by triple blocking her, the Trojans needed other players to step up. Dwyer felt Emily Wagy and Hailey Wilson did just that.
Honan had seven kills in the match, while Wilson had six kills and Wagy added four. Ericha Stuberg had 23 digs and two aces, and Rampolla had eight assists.
"Hailey really stepped up and had an awesome day," Dwyer said. "She had to sit out all of her club season in the offseason due to a torn ACL. It has been a little bit of a frustrating year for her getting the speed of the game back and really trusting her knee again. She has never complained once, works hard every day and she is coming alive for us right at the right time."
Pewaukee ended the Trojans' run with a 3-0 sweep in the championship match.The Pirates took the tournament title with set wins of 25-22, 25-18 and 25-20.
"Pewaukee came out and played very well," Dwyer said. "We played well, just some mental errors throughout the game that let them go on a couple runs that we could come back from. Pewaukee is a good team that exacted a little revenge on us after we beat them in five during the regular season.
"I was very happy with the overall tournament. We put ourselves in the position that we wanted to be in, which was the finals. It just didn't work out in our favor. It wasn't for lack of effort, it just didn't happen, and sometimes that's just the way it is. There's nothing to hang our heads about."
Stuberg set a school record with 36 digs in three sets against Pewaukee, breaking the old mark of 32, which was done in a five-set match.
Honan finished the tournament with 47 kills and six blocks. Rampolla accumulated 51 assists; Stuberg had 75 digs and four aces; and Radske had four aces.
The Trojans (27-11 overall) received the sixth seed in their sectional and will open the WIAA Division 1 playoffs at home against the 11th-seeded Milwaukee Washington co-op at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20. If West advances, it will face the winner of third-seeded Brookfield Central and 14th-seeded Milwaukee Pulaski in a regional final on Oct. 22.