The Lakeland volleyball team has showed progress in a tough Great Northern Conference the past couple of years. They have gotten better each year and that showed this season.
The Thunderbirds finished sixth in conference with a 10-26-3 record, 2-10 in conference. They won seven sets and lost 33.
Even though there weren’t many wins in the win column, the girls came together as a team and had fun along the way.
“As the season went on, the girls become more and more confident,” coach Carley Punzel said. “They had more fun when we were playing and the flow of the game became more natural to them.”
Both of their conference wins came against Rhinelander. They defeated Rhinelander 3-2 (20-25, 25-17, 25-19, 26-28, 15-13) at the conference tournament Sept. 21 and then at home Oct. 8 3-1 (21-25, 25-16, 25-19, 25-13).
Some of their highlight wins came Sept. 14 at an invitational in Ashland. At the invitational, they defeated Washburn 2-1 (22-25, 25-19, 15-13), helping them to finish first in pool play.
With that win, the Thunderbirds took on Northland Pines and won 2-1 (11-25, 25-18, 15-12). Northland Pines ended the season as the second-best team in the GNC and Washburn was one game away from going to state in the Division 4 sectional tournament.
“To compete against both of those teams helped us tremendously,” Punzel said. “Being able to play these teams close to our preseason and winning was a big confidence boost for the girls.”
Another season highlight came against Mosinee at the conference tournament Sept. 21. The Thunderbirds did not win the match, but they took a set from Mosinee, a team that went 12-0 in conference and was one set away from qualifying for the state tournament in Division 2.
“Mosinee is a great team and always has been but that doesn’t mean Lakeland can’t either,” Punzel said. “That was one thing we tried to get out of the girls heads this season. Anyone can win, it’s just two teams on either side of the net.”
Captains Abby Parris and Camille Quade, both honorable mention all-conference recipients, led the way for the T-Birds.
Parris finished third on the team with 34 kills, second with 13 service aces and first with 115 digs. Quade finished first in kills with 60, first with 15 service aces and second with 83 digs.
“Overall, I can truly say that these two have changed the program tremendously,” Punzel said. “They have set it up to be successful due to their leadership and commitment to the program.”
Ashley Marquardt was a dependable player all season long. She finished the year with 21 kills and a team high 119 serves as well as 94 assists, helping facilitate the offense. Of those with at least 99 attacks, Marquardt had the top percentage at 0.040.
“Ashley was a setting machine,” Punzel said. “Her sets got more and more consistent as the season went on. She was a good role model for Callie (Ullius) in that sense of being calm when having that role out on the court.”
McKenna Gilbertson and Brooke Pagels spent time at libero this season. Together, they combined for 77 digs.
“McKenna has probably one of the best platforms for passing on my team and Brooke is one that will do anything to keep that ball up off the floor. Being able to utilize both of them was a blessing,” Punzel said.
Sarah Thompson was a force on the offensive and defensive end. She finished with 29 kills and was tied for first with six blocks.
Megan Haggart did a little bit of everything. She was second on the team with 35 kills, third with 47 digs and had the highest serve percentage of those with at least 30 serves.
Callie Ullius was the lone freshman on the team, providing energy and a spark. She finished second on the team with 52 assists.
“I am beyond excited for Callie, I don’t think she realizes how good of player she is and still can be,” Punzel said.
The season ended Oct. 22 in Antigo with a loss in regional play, but it was the best the Thunderbirds looked all season, including a set one victory. It will provide momentum for next season.
“That was by far the most exciting and fun match we have ever played,” Punzel said. “I feel each season my girls have responded more and more and if they continue to do that I know we can make it in the top of the charts for our conference.”
Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]