Seneca Ready For State

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Seneca’s Liv Swanson goes high to pound the ball in a match earlier this season. Haley Wall (5) gets ready. Seneca has been using Swanson's spikes in recent practices to prepare for the digging they will need to do at the state tournament. (Courier Press file photo)

Members of the Seneca High School volleyball team pose with the Sectional Trophy in Richland Center on Saturday. The team includes, front row: Emily Garfoot, Haley Wall, Alivia Salinas, Makenna Greene and Hannah Whiteaker. Middle row: Corrina Lenzendorf, Becky Trautsch, Kelsy Ostrander and Helen Clark. Back row: Assistant Coach Susie Garfoot, Assistant Coach Logan Lessard, Erin Sime, Liv Swanson, Michelle Clark, Olivia Payne, Savanna Wallin, Assistant Coach Angie Mabb and Head Coach Dawn Ray. (Photo by Sandy Connors)


Seneca girls excited and ready for state tournament

By Ted Pennekamp


Seneca’s enthusiastic fans will be sure to follow their favorite team at the 44th Annual Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Girls Volleyball State Tournament this upcoming weekend.

This will be Seneca’s seventh appearance in the state tournament, and its second since the pool-play era. The last time Seneca was in the state tournament was in 1998 when they finished second in Division 4. Five of their former state appearances came during the 1980s, which produced back-to-back runner-up finishes in Class C in 1981 and 1982.

The Seneca team has had a fine season in 2016, and Coach Dawn Ray said that the players began to really push themselves to get better each match. The team improved throughout the season, said Ray, and began to really gel in recent weeks for the playoff push.

“The team evolved like I knew it could,” Ray said. “It took awhile but we improved and the girls gained confidence. It was a matter of them believing they could do it. We improved in the mental game also, and learned how to overcome an opening game loss. The girls are really excited. They’ve said it just doesn’t seem real yet, but when we get there and watch some of the Division 1 matches, it will.” 

Seneca reached the state tournament by beating Benton in four sets in Belmont on Oct. 27, and then vanquishing powerful Bangor in four games in the sectional final in Richland Center on Saturday, Oct. 29.

“The Benton match when we lost the first game (and came back to win) was the best that I’ve had a team play in all my years of coaching,” said Ray. 

Seneca won the Ridge and Valley Conference Championship with a 7-0 record. They have now won two consecutive conference titles.

While the conference championship was certainly a goal before the season, the Seneca team knew it had plenty of potential, and the main goal has always been to go as far beyond conference as they could. To this end, they scheduled some tough tournaments this year against bigger schools and top competition in an effort to elevate their play, said Ray after winning the Regional Championship over second-seeded Kickapoo in straight sets on Seneca’s home court on Saturday, Oct. 22.

Seneca certainly has some tough competition ahead as they prepare to take on three-time defending state champion Newman Catholic in their first step for the gold ball on Friday, Nov. 4 at the Resch Center in Green Bay.

The Newman Catholic Fighting Cardinals of Wausau are making their ninth overall appearance and their eighth in the last nine seasons. They are attempting to become the first program in Division 4 to win four consecutive championships. The Fighting Cardinals have had two runner-up finishes, in 2009 and 2012. They are the representatives out of the Stevens Point Sectional, defeating Bowler in the final with relative ease in three sets. They finished first in the South Division of the Marawood Conference this fall.  

The Fighting Cardinals feature a force in 6-1 senior outside hitter Mariah Whalen, who is considered one of the best players in the country. She was the National Freshman of the Year in 2013 and has been a First Team All State player for two straight seasons, with 2016 likely her third.

“She’s the real deal,” said Seneca Coach Dawn Ray about the University of Wisconsin recruit. “She’s a phenomenal hitter.”

Ray said Seneca is practicing lining up for their digs by having Liv Swanson slam the ball from all directions in preparation for Whalen.

“We’re also going to hit power at them,” said Ray. “They’re going to hit power at us, so we’re going to show some power of our own.”

It’s sure to be an exciting match as Seneca (26-9) takes on Newman Catholic (32-7) in a Division 4 state semifinal beginning at 10 a.m., Nov. 4.

The winner will await the winner of Clayton (27-5) versus Randolph (32-6) in the other semifinal.

The championship match is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 5 at 9 a.m.

The semifinals of all four divisions of the WIAA State Girls Volleyball Tournament will be streamed live on the WIAA.TV portal of the NFHS Network on a consumer subscription basis. To purchase a subscription to the live programming, log-on to and click on the “Join Now” button in the upper right corner of the page. Archived streams of the games will be available on demand on the NFHS Network 72 hours after the tournament without requirement of a subscription.

Fans can watch the broadcast of the WIAA State Girls Volleyball finals Saturday on FS Wisconsin Alternate channel. The Division 4 final will be aired live at 9 a.m. Check local cable listings for the FS Wisconsin Alternate channel in your area.

Fans can also receive updates of the State Girls Volleyball Tournament on the WIAA State Tournament Twitter account @wiaawistate with the hashtag #wiaagvb. Fans are also like invited to like them on Facebook, follow them on Instagram at wiaawi, and add them on Snapchat at wiaawis.

School ticket packages are available. To order tickets online, go to the WIAA website at

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