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Hoff attempts a spike

Janesville senior Bailey Hoff rises up to spike the ball during the Wildcats’ 3-0 win over Clarksville on Tuesday at Janesville High School.

They wore overalls, plaid button-down shirts and cowboy hats, and they filled the air with howls.

They weren't part of a rodeo crowd, or fans at a country music concert.

They were Janesville High School students, making sure the seniors on the volleyball team got the most out of their last home match (of the regular season, at least).

Surprise: the Wildcats won another match Tuesday night, a 3-0 drubbing of Clarksville (25-8, 25-9, 25-4). Their season record improved to 23-8.

Sweeps are commonplace for Janesville — the Wildcats have swept their opponent six times during their win streak that now sits at nine matches — but the students and parents within the Shelly Sorensen Gym ensured Tuesday night was exceptional.

"It’s definitely an indescribable feeling, just to know that might be your last time ever playing in this gym," senior Julia Meister said. "It was good to come out with a win, though."

"It’s always special," Janesville coach Shelly Sorensen said. "It kind of adds a little to the emotion out there for the seniors. But it worked out well for us. Everybody was able to get into the match, which was nice too."

The outcome of the match was never truly in question. The Wildcats' average margin of victory over the three sets was 18 points.

Janesville's dominance began right away, as it jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the first set. The Indians later answered with three straight points to cut their deficit to 9-5, but that was the highlight of the set for Clarksville. The Wildcats ultimately won six straight to go up 1-0 in the match.

The result of the second set was much like the first, though slightly more skewed toward Clarksville. Janesville went up 2-0 with a 25-9 second set victory, highlighted by 12 straight points won by the Wildcats to end the set.

Midway through, Meister approached from the left side of the net, timed a jump perfectly and put her weight behind a vehement spike Clarksville had no chance of returning. The kill — one of many for Meister — put Janesville up 18-9.

"We played pretty well," Meister said. "I think we do a lot better when the intensity of the game overall is greater. We did a good job of keeping our heads in it."

The third set felt like a victory lap for the Wildcats, who were frequently seen with ear-to-ear smiles in between points. Janesville took the set 25-4, and the seniors can look back and say they won their last match on this court.

"Overall, they (Janesville) controlled the game quite well," Sorensen said. "We didn’t have a lot of unforced errors — we still had several. We're working on making sure we control everything we can on our side.

"I thought we played and worked on what we needed to on our side of the court. So, running our offense, making sure we’re moving our feet on defense — all the little things."

For Janesville, now comes the hard part.

While spirits are high as the season looks like a roaring success and the team's ranking sits at third in Class 1A as of Oct. 3, the toughest part of the Wildcats' path forward begins now.

The team has two tournaments remaining, along with a triangular — all three will be taxing, and all three will come on the road.

That doesn't seem to trouble Sorensen, though.

"It’s what we’re used to," the coach said.

While Tuesday night's win was emphatic, lots of work remains if Janesville is to win a fifth straight state championship.

"It’s always ball control," Sorensen said. "We need to play good defense. We don’t have a lot of height, so we have to play great defense and keep the ball in play. Play smart offensively to limit our unforced errors."