RHINELANDER - The Rhinelander High School volleyball team gave Antigo a positive Bell Game preview Thursday night, taking down the Red Robins in four games.
The Hodags recovered from a 5-0 deficit in Game One to rally back, taking the match 25-22, 25-14, 22-25, 25-17.
Rhinelander avenged an earlier loss to Antigo and pulled back to even in the Great Northern Conference at 4-4. The Robins fell to 4-4.
Senior captain Katie Berrell led a balanced attack with 18 kills. Riley Aschenbrenner chipped in 14 kills, while Brianna Gilbert added 13.
"I said, just keep (Berrell) in the middle and let her find her rhythm. She doesn't need to destroy the ball every time she touches it. She just needs to keep the ball in bounds and get a feel for how the game was going," Hodags coach Paul Mildebrandt said.
Mildebrandt was especially pleased with Aschenbrenner's night.
"Riley put on a clinic tonight. I told Lexi (Haug), our setter, that Riley should. When you're a head taller than anyone else on the court, I said, keep feeding her. She started blocking their tips, she started blocking their attacks. She got into their heads, really quick," he said.
Haug had 69 assists on the evening.
Antigo was without the injured Caroline Roller, who stands second in the conference in kills per game average.
"The part we focused on tonight was playing with a really active back row, both defensively and off the serve receive. Antigo, with the injuries that they had, didn't really have anyone that was going to offensively hurt us. They were going to be looking for more of a spot game. They were going to be looking more to keep the ball in the court," Mildebrandt said.
Rhinelander started off poorly, dropping the first five points of the match to the Red Robins. However, they ended up fighting back to take a 13-12 lead, and later put away the game by three points.
"We did start out a little sluggish. With it being Homecoming week, the girls have had a lot on their mind. We dug our way out of that game," Mildebrandt said.
A five-point scoring streak in the middle of Game Two served as a springboard to a 25-14 Hodags victory.
"Once our defensive started to pick up, we started to play a lot better, and we saw the score change," Mildebrandt said.
The Rhinelander coach used Game Three to get playing time for lesser-used players like Alyssa Ellis, Kyle Glinski, McKayla Smith, and Yvonne Gardner. That seemed to throw the team off, and contributed to the loss.
"It did affect some of our starters, because you're used to playing with the normal players," he said.
However, the Hodags used four straight points during Gardner's serve to take Game Four, 25-17.
Rhinelander next returns to the court Monday at Wausau East. They resume GNC play on Tuesday at Mosinee.