Best Gigl tourney ever leads to victory for host Nicolet girls volleyball team
Knights honor former athlete who died too young
"This might have been the best Gigl Tournament that we've ever had."
Those were the thoughts of Nicolet girls volleyball coach Dann Jacobson following the annual Brittney Gigl Memorial Tournament the Knights hosted Saturday.
Because it's been a quick 13 years, but the memory of Gigl is still strong at Nicolet and especially within its girls volleyball program.
The Knights did honor to the former Nicolet student and volleyball player Gigl with the 13th annual tourney. Gigl died in August 2001 from a sudden case of encephalitis and the tournament has been held every year since. Various fundraisers, including a silent auction by team mom Lisa Conley succeeded in raising more than $2,500 for the Gigl Scholarship Fund.
Her parents, Bob and Marta, were there again and spoke to all the teams involved (about 150 people all told) about Brittney during the lunch break and as usual, Jacobson said there was scarcely a dry eye in the house. They stuck around until the end as usual to present the championship plaques.
With a happy twist, as in a rare occurrence in this usually high-level tournament, the host Knights were the ones taking the title plaques from the Gigls, as they beat third-ranked in Division 3 Racine St. Catherine's 25-11, 24-26, 15-13, in the finals.
"We all came out to hug them (the Gigls)," Jacobson said of the awards ceremony. "...This tournament is about more than just playing volleyball. It is about sharing time with teammates and friends, understanding that the next day is not guaranteed and appreciating the special moments we have together."
Gigl's spirit lives on
Jacobson said the championship effort would have fit into Brittney's philosophy.
"Bob talked about how Brittney loved sports because she loved to compete and be with her friends," Jacobson said. "He explained that Brittney knew the difference between losing and being beaten. She hated to lose but if she and the team gave it their best and the other (team) just outplayed them, she was OK with that."
The title built off an important North Shore dual meet win the Knights earned over a short-handed Germantown team on Oct. 1 that kept Nicolet unbeaten in league duals.
They showed no signs of letting up following that victory as they downed West Bend West (25-19, 25-11 and then Milwaukee Riverside (25-13, 25-7), to start the tournament. In the semifinals they downed New Berlin West 25-22, 25-15 setting up the match with St. Catherine's.
Jacobson called the finals match "The most exciting of the day."
"The girls were very excited to have a chance to play against one of the top players in the state (UW-Green Bay recruit Abby Jeffcoat)," Jacobson said.
After the initial two-game split, the final contest went back and fourth with the Knights always holding a small edge before Erin Heidenrich pounded a shot down the line for a kill to secure the championship.
Three A's lead team
Jacobson was pleased with the all-around effort, but noted that the team's three A's, outside hitter Angie Morello, setter Alanna Conley and middle hitter Arianna Cohen, continue to lead the way.
Morello had 32 kills combined in the semifinals and finals while Conley had 62 assists. Cohen had 14 combined kills and Heidenrich 13.
"If we receive and serve like we did in game one (of the finals) our offense is pretty tough to stop," Jacobson said.
The Knights have a quiet week. They took on Milwaukee Lutheran on Tuesday and now host Cedarburg on Oct. 15, likely with the North Shore Conference dual meet title on the line.
"We're looking forward to it," Jacobson said.
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