10/10/2017 7:27:00 AM LUHS netters hit breaking point
Photos by Bob Mainhardt of the river News
Lakeland freshman Camille Quade sets a ball during a match against Mosinee in the second Great Northern Conference Meet on Saturday, Oct. 7, at Northland Pines High School.
Lakeland sophomore Abby Parris hits a ball during a match against Rhinelander in the second Great Northern Conference Meet on Saturday, Oct. 7, at Northland Pines High School.
EAGLE RIVER - Lakeland Union High School has had its struggles in Great Northern Conference volleyball play since winning the first match of the season at Tomahawk.
The Thunderbirds have lost every set since then - 21 to be exact - and they faced the top two teams in the conference in Mosinee and Medford, before battling the top player in the GNC in Rhinelander's Hope Wissbroecker at the second GNC Meet on Saturday at Northland Pines High School.
Lakeland had momentum on its side heading into the day, however, coming off of a hard-fought loss to Ashland in five sets on Tuesday, as the T-Birds bounced back from a 0-2 hole to force a fifth set.
That momentum indeed carried over in the first match of the day against Mosinee, as Lakeland played well in a three-set loss to a team that would clinch the conference title later in the day, but things began to go downhill after that. The T-Birds struggled mightily in back-to-back three-set losses to Medford and Rhinelander to close out the day.
"I'm honestly at a loss of words for today because we started so strong," LUHS head coach Carley Siegel said. "I'm not sure what made them go down. Against Medford, they outplayed us. Were they stronger hitters than us? No, but they were smarter with placing the ball where we were not. So we were definitely out of system and our defense wasn't picking up as many balls as we normally would. Normally we're a scrappy team. Today, not so much."
The day began with Lakeland falling to Mosinee, 18-25, 19-25, 19-25.
It was the second strong showing of the season against the Indians, who clinched the GNC later in the day after wins against Northland Pines and Medford.
"What we did well against Mosinee was actually play the game of volleyball and have fun," Siegel said. "They were actually covering and talking. Our kill stats were definitely higher in that match and that's what helped. We changed the lineup around, people were hitting outside rather than middle and I think the fact that (Mosinee) came in knowing they were going to win lit a fire under them."
After two tough sets against Medford that saw the Lady Raiders squeak out 25-20 and 25-17 wins, things began to go downhill quickly.
Lakeland dropped the third set, 25-8, and that carried over into the final match of the day against Rhinelander.
The Lady Hodags hammered the T-Birds, 25-8, 25-11, 25-17. Much like the match nine days earlier, Wissbroecker was too much to handle. In the first set alone she tallied seven kills to Lakeland's eight total points.
"Hope is a fantastic player and I think the girls just get caught up in how fast she hits," Siegel said. "We keep telling them that those are the people you want to play against ... Every time she came to the front row they got this look on their face like, 'Oh, here we go again.' Just like last time when they came to our place, we didn't take advantage of her being in the back row. I feel like we made just as many errors when she was in the back row, when it should have been the other way around."
Lakeland has one more conference match to play before the playoffs begin and that comes against Tomahawk.
The Hatchets surged ahead of the T-Birds in the basement of the GNC on Saturday, beating Northland Pines in the final round of the day.
Having lost 27 consecutive GNC sets to date, Lakeland needs a win purely to continue the improvement of the program.
"We started the season well playing them, now we need to end the season well playing them," Siegel said. "We have to think of something that's going to change themselves. Something to motivate them, something that's going to get them going, something that's going to help them get the 'W's' because we haven't won a single set in forever. They want it so bad. It's not that my team doesn't want to win. They have the passion for the game. The get so caught up in the 'W' that they're not focusing on the basics."
Lakeland (6-24, 1-10 GNC) battles Tomahawk in the final home game of the season tonight at 7 p.m.
Nick Sabato may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @SabatoNick.