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.
MINOCQUA - You know summer in the Northwoods will soon be here when seasonal businesses start opening up again.
Wildwood Wildlife Park opened up Saturday in Minocqua.
Hundreds of people rushed to the gate today to see all different types of animals, some local and some exotic.
"We are so busy today but it's a beautiful day to come out to Wildwood," said the park's director Judy Domaszek. "This is one of our baby aoudads, it's an African sheep, and as you can see in the background there are many people busy playing with the baby goats, and the sheep and the pigs and the tortoises, and they're just enjoying their day."
On Saturday the park had a giraffe feeding.
Workers also have been renovating and expanding the park.
The park has many new animals on the way, including some baby animals that were born there.
"The mouflon sheep are new, we've got some new reptiles, we have some new babies that we're going to have down in the nursery in a little while," Domaszek said. "We actually had a baby badger born here at the zoo. And we have a baby kangaroo. Those guys are all coming down when it's safe to come down."
Wildwood is open every day from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Then after Memorial Day the park stays open till 5:30 p.m. for the summer.
NORTHWOODS - Prescription drugs play an important role in our health.
They help us recover if we're sick, cope if we have a chronic condition and help manage pain.
But those drugs can expire or just stay in the back of our medicine cabinets for months or years.
And if those drugs get into the wrong hands—such as toddlers or abusers—that's a problem.
That's why many local police and sheriff's departments participate in the National Prescription Drug Take-Back program.
It's run by the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Saturday was National Take-Back Day.
"We're keeping the controlled substances in the hands they're supposed to be in, especially with the pill epidemic now, it's important that these stay out of the hands of people that are abusing them," said Minocqua Police Officer Matthew Tate.
Several area police departments hosted drop-offs Saturday.
You can drop off prescription or over-the-counter pills, ointments, patches, non-aerosol sprays, vials and pet medications. You cannot bring in inhalers or aerosol cans, and you cannot drop off illegal drugs or needles.
All the drugs are brought to the state Department of Justice where they will be incinerated.
That's better than just flushing them or throwing them out in the trash.
"It's very important that it's not getting into our ground water is the main thing," Tate said. "We just don't want people dumping them in toilets or in their garbage."
If you have prescription drugs you want to get rid of safely, don't worry if you missed Saturday's opportunity. Many area police stations have drug drop-off bins in their lobbies, so you can drop them off any time of the year.
MINOCQUA - Lakeland and Antigo generally square off as rivals in Great Northern Conference competition. But on Friday, nearly a week removed from the prom shootings in Antigo, Lakeland wanted to show that it was on Antigo's side.
"It's hard to react to something like this, because you want to be concerned, and you want to help, but it's hard to know how to help," said Maggie Laurence, a Lakeland sophomore and Student Council member.
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