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When experience is lacking, rely on hard work and dedication.

That's what the Franklin girls volleyball team did on Oct. 15, when it stunned the Southeast Conference field and successfully defended its league tournament crown.

"We've had such great team development considering we have only one senior," said coach Katie Bohen. "Everyone who starts is a junior or younger, and we returned only two starters from last year ... we've done things through perseverance, dedication and hard work. We've been playing as a team all season. The kids really work together."

The Sabers had to rally to beat Kenosha Bradford in the quarterfinals; downed Racine Case, 20-25, 25-21,15-13, in the semifinals; and followed that with the 25-23, 25-22 victory over Kenosha Tremper in the finals.

The interesting thing, Bohen said, was that the Sabers had lost to Case in the first league dual of the season and then fell to Tremper in the final match of the dual-meet campaign on Oct. 11.

The victory gives Franklin a lot of momentum as it heads into the WIAA tournament series. They earned the fifth seed in the West Allis Hale bracket and will host West Allis Central in a regional semifinal at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20. If they win, they will likely visit fourth-seeded Muskego in a regional final at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22.

Sectional semifinals are at Racine Park on Thursday, Oct. 27.

Bohen is optimistic the team can continue this run.

"I think we can do good things going forward," she said. "We'll continue to work hard, continuously climbing the ladder of success."

And they'll do it as a team. Bohen didn't want to highlight any one individual for the team's success, noting that up to 10 players on the roster are contributing almost every single match.

The starters include sophomore setter Brianna Merkel, freshman outside/opposite hitter Holly Reinke, junior middle/opposite hitter Marah Petre, freshman setter/opposite hitter Kaitlyn Gawelski, junior middle hitter Nora Pecha, sophomore outside hitter/defensive specialist Hannah Monfre and sophomore libero/defensive specialist Kaylee Kuecker.

The only senior is libero Kelsey Johnson, and the only returning starters were Merkel and Reinke.

Bohen said the final two rounds of the tournament were very intense. She noted the Case match was "amazing to watch, to coach and to participate in."

The Tremper match was one of long runs by both sides, Bohen said, and the Sabers got the slightly better of that exchange.

"We pulled through it," she said.

As Bohen noted, the depth paid off, as many players posted big numbers. Kuecker had four aces and 32 digs; Johnson three aces and 11 digs; Monfre four aces and 21 digs; Merkel eight aces, 26 kills, 28 digs and 39 assists; Reinke three aces, 13 kills, 36 digs and three blocks; junior outside hitter Bryanna Moonen 17 kills; Pecha seven blocks; Petre three blocks; and Versnik 34 assists

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