Melissa Bruckner records a kill shooting past two Ashland blockers during a volleyball match between Lakeland and Ashland on Thursday, Aug. 30, at Lakeland Union High School in Minocqua.
Melissa Bruckner records a kill shooting past two Ashland blockers during a volleyball match between Lakeland and Ashland on Thursday, Aug. 30, at Lakeland Union High School in Minocqua.
The Lakeland Union High School volleyball team started fast, but was unable to maintain momentum last Thursday night at home against the Ashland Oredockers. 
Lakeland won the first set, but faded down the stretch as it lost to Ashland in four sets 22-25, 25-19, 25-18, 25-12 at the LUHS fieldhouse. 
While the T-Birds came out strong, coach Carley Punzel said Ashland’s two outside hitters — Elena Brinker and Maddie Cabe — eventually made an impact on the match.
“We unfortunately fell short on our last three games,” she said. “Ashland took an early lead in both the second and third match but my girls rallied through coming back from behind. In the second match we were down 7-1 and the girls turned it around by talking to one another and playing hard. We made adjustments as the game went on, Ashland had two strong hitter that were being constantly set to the outside. They were smart with keeping my defense on their toes by switching up there hit of choice.” 
Still coming out and taking the opening set of the night was a statement Punzel said the team wanted to make on its home court. 
“The girls energy in the beginning of the match leading into the first game was unstoppable,” she said. “They took that first game with pride.”
Punzel also noted the play of the setters in the team’s 6-2 system. Junior Ashley Marquardt, a first-year varsity player, led the team with 10 assists while Caitlin Hartigan had eight.
“Ashley is a new setter to the varsity squad as she was the main setter for our JV program the last two years,” Punzel explained. “It doesn’t come around very often when you have a tall and left handed setter! She has fantastic hands and she is still yet to see her full potential. We are excited to see that come out of her, confident and a leader. With being on a completely new team it is a bit more difficult for her to adjust but for our returning player Caitlin, I have had her set for my team on and off the last three years as she was one of my major hitters last year. I have made this decision because she is a natural leader on the court and she has an instinct about her that helps with her setting. As she is a senior this year I hope Ashley steps into Caitlins shoes as I will need her has our lead setter next season.”
Freshman Megan Haggart led Lakeland with five kills on the evening, while sophomore Camille Quade had four kills. Quade and Hartigan each had five digs and senior Melissa Bruckner finished with three blocks on the night. 
While Lakeland sits at 1-10 overall for the season, Punzel said she is liking what she’s seeing from her squad, which opens Great Northern Conference play at home against Tomahawk on Thursday.
“It’s unbelievable how much further along my team is already, this early in the season,” she said. “We are able to run plays and are able to pick up the tempo of the game. I see us getting better and better as the season goes on because of that! So over all I am very proud of the way my team played last night. We are going to work hard this next week for our first conference match Thursday against Tomahawk.” 
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at jeremy@rivernewsonline.com.