A wildly competitive Division 1 Sectional matchup between the sixth-seeded Hortonville Polar Bears and the second-seeded Appleton East Patriots went down to the wire on Thursday, Oct. 30.
The Patriots won the match by a 3-2 margin after winning the fifth set, 15-13.
Game one was hotly contested from the very beginning, but the Polar Bears built a slim 7-5 lead. As the teams traded points, Hortonville managed to pad the lead at 12-9.
The Patriots charged back to tie the game at 14-14 later in the match, but Hortonville again gained some separation to lead 22-17. The Patriots closed to within 24-21, but the Polar Bears put the game on ice with a wicked spike by Kori Leist.
The highly intense match didn’t let up in game two, as the teams battled fiercely throughout the early going. The Patriots built an 18-13 lead, but Hortonville rallied to draw within three points at 20-17. The Patriots answered with a 5-1 run to close out the second game.
With the match tied at 1-1, Hortonville moved out to a 4-1 lead in game three. Appleton East responded with a 12-2 run to take a 13-6 lead. The Polar Bears fought back to draw within two points, leaving the score at 15-13 later in the match, but the Patriots went on a 10-7 run to win the game.
Fans of both teams traded cheers and jeers throughout the contest, creating a fun yet intense environment. The crowd was seldom silent as they watched the relentless action.
Leading 2-1, the Patriots entered game four looking to put the Polar Bears away. The teams continued their back-and-forth battle until Appleton East was able to build a slight 16-9 lead. Hortonville dug deep and went on a ferocious comeback, outscoring the Patriots 16-3 to close out the game and tie the match, 2-2.
The crowd continued its deafening roar as the teams began to do battle in the decisive fifth set. Much like the first four games, the fifth contained several incredible volleys. Both teams pounded vicious spikes, only to see the opposing team make a great dig to keep the play alive.
The fifth game saw nine ties and nine lead changes as players from both teams tirelessly worked to secure the match. Both teams refused to quit, while spikes, digs, bumps, sets, and serves continued to rain down.
Appleton East built a 6-3 lead early in the game, but Hortonville roared back to take a 7-6 lead. Several lead changes later, the Patriots tied the game at 12-12. A controversial call went Appleton East’s way to give the Patriots a 13-12 lead.
The Patriots then earned a 14-12 advantage, needing just one point to close out the game and win the match, but the Polar Bears refused to relent, drawing within one point at 14-13.
Appleton East converted their second attempt to win the match after another exciting volley, winning the fifth game, 15-13 and winning the match, 3-2.
The loss ends Hortonville’s impressive season, which saw them capture a Regional Championship while making a strong postseason run.