RHINELANDER - The Rhinelander High School volleyball team did something unprecedented for their program last year: win a conference championship.
Their quest to repeat in the Great Northern Conference got off to a good start Tuesday night at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium, as the Hodags defeated Lakeland in four games.
Three players had double-digit kills for Rhinelander. The Hodags were forced to rally back from a game one defeat to take the 18-25, 25-15, 25-21, 27-25 victory.
The Thunderbirds used a string of nine straight points to pull ahead and put away the opening game.
"We started out really slow, really tight, being our first game at home, especially some of the younger players. It took us a little too long to get into it and we gave away game one," said Rhinelander coach Paul Mildebrandt after the match.
But then the Hodags got going. Rhinelander eased into an offensive and defensive comfort zone to win game two and reverse the momentum.
"We started reading some of their transitions and their weapons a little bit better," Mildebrandt said.
Rhinelander also used some well-placed serves to their advantage. For the match, the Hodags tallied 14 service aces.
The home team ripped off nine points in a row in game three to take a commanding lead, but the Thunderbirds clawed back to tie it at 21-21. Then, Rhinelander flipped the momentum once again, putting away the final four points.
That surge carried over to game four, when the Hodags won the first five points. But Lakeland mounted another comeback, and claimed a 18-16 lead late in the game. After working their way back to a 22-22 tie, Rhinelander squandered two opportunities to end the match before finally putting Lakeland away.
Brianna Gilbert led the Hodags with 16 kills. Returning first-team all-conference selection Katie Berrell added 14, and Riley Aschenbrenner chipped in with ten.
Before the match, RHS athletic director Brian Paulson welcomed back longtime Hodags coach Kathy Wawrzynowicz in a special ceremony. Wawrzynowicz had been tending to an emotional family illness and death, but has made her way back into the program on a limited basis.
"This summer has been really hard on her. But being part of this volleyball program is part of her healing process," Mildebrandt said.
The Hodags next travel to Beaver Dam for a Saturday invitational. They return to Great Northern Conference action next Tuesday, visiting Northland Pines.
SAYNER - A needle and thread means more to Pat Andersen than just sewing.
"I started quilting when I was 19 so it's been a passion of mine for a long time," said Pat.
Quilting gives her a community of ladies in the Northwoods.
"Sayner needs something like this, it needs something for the women to do," said Pat.
After moving to Sayner with her husband Don last spring, the two decided to buy the building that now houses Plum Lake Quilts. Pat needed somewhere to put her long arm machine and that eventually turned into a little retail business.
"I mean little and then it grew a little bit and it grew a little bit more," said Don Andersen.
RHINELANDER - Cancer survivors and supporters gathered at Ministry St. Mary's Hospital for the 10th annual Celebration of Life Thursday. The event honors those battling cancer or survivors of cancer and shows people what kinds of services the James Beck Cancer Center offers.
The center's namesake lost his life to cancer, but now others will be able to benefit from his gift to the hospital.
"With his vision and his dollars we were able to put this cancer center here in Rhinelander so patients don't have to travel to larger cities," said Director of Cancer Services Kimberly Hetland.
This year's speaker was Mike Regole, a survivor of tonsil cancer. He spoke about his experience at the center, how family and support affected his journey, and how he ran a business while having cancer.
MADISON - A $3 billion tax break bill for Taiwan-based electronics giant Foxconn Technology Group is poised to pass the Wisconsin Assembly on a bipartisan vote.
Democratic state Rep. Cory Mason said during debate Thursday that he intends to vote for the bill. He is the first Democrat to publicly say he will back the measure that is being championed by Gov. Scott Walker and fellow Republicans.
LAC DU FLAMBEAU - On a busy stretch of Highway 47 near Lac du Flambeau -- where hundreds of wheels spin at 55 miles-per-hour each day -- just one tire drags at a slower pace, pulled by one man: the Tire Man.
"I guess I'm the only one nutty enough to do it, I suppose," Frank Tarantino said with a laugh.
Tarantino lives in Mercer, but trains for marathons in Lac du Flambeau. He started pulling a tire on a chain a few years ago after reading about it in a fitness magazine. People often stop to take his picture.
"Little by little you run a little further, a little further," Tarantino said.
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