9/12/2017 7:26:00 AM Lakeland starts week with tough loss but bounces back at invitational
Nick Sabato/Lakeland Times
Melissa Bruckner blocks a ball by Medford’s Kamry Albrecht (15) for Lakeland during the first set of a Great Northern Conference match on Thursday, Sept. 7, at Lakeland Union High School.
Lakeland Union High School got its first volleyball win of the season last week against Tomahawk and it was hoping the momentum would carry over into the end of this week with a match against Medford and then at the Ashland Invitational on Saturday.
Medford blanks Lakeland
Lakeland had some momentum heading into Thursday night's Great Northern Conference tilt with visiting Medford after snapping a 20-match losing streak against conference foes last Thursday at Tomahawk.
The Thunderbirds began the match well, but errors - lots of errors - doomed them against the reigning GNC champions.
Medford capitalized on seemingly every Lakeland mistake, turning it into a three-set rout, 25-14, 25-15, 25-17.
"A lot of the points that we gave them were free points," LUHS head coach Carley Siegel said. "A lot of mental mistakes that we shouldn't have made, free balls that were pushed out of bounds, being pushed into the net and not owning what we can on the court. We definitely didn't show how we can play like last week."
Perhaps it was having a full week off from competition or perhaps it was the jitters from it being the home opener, but the T-Birds were off their game.
Siegel points to it being the home opener and the pressure getting to some of the girls.
"I think a lot of our girls had pressure, especially with Medford being our first home match," Siegel said. "I think it kind of got to them and that's kind of what I saw tonight."
Olivia Killian had 10 digs and five assists for Lakeland. Melissa Bruckner added four kills and three blocks, while Julianne Niemi had 13 digs and two blocks.
Bouncing back at Ashland
Lakeland needed to bounce back from the Medford loss at the Ashland Invitational on Saturday.
While the T-Birds only won one match in three attempts, besting Washburn to open the day, 25-23, 25-20, before falling to Northland Pines 13-25, 11-25 and Thorp 19-25, 25-23, 7-15, they responded much better to the challenge than on Thursday.
"The girls definitely responded different today," Siegel said. "On Thursday the pressure of the first home game definitely got to them. I told them to let that go and to play like I know they can. They had more fun today, communicated more, and focused in on the court, not what was going on around them."
Killian led the team with 22 assists and seven aces, while Niemi had 11 kills and five aces, and Bruckner pitched in 30 digs.
Siegel can see her team continue to improve and she was impressed with the way her entire team was ready to play when called upon.
"I always tell my girls that no matter what your role is at a given time you are an important part of the team," Siegel said. "Each game we have to have starters but being able to put in any of my players at any given time is fantastic. The skill level of my girls continues to grow and my non-starters make my starters work for their spot each day. We played some great teams today that made us work and my girls were fighting until the end and that's all I can ask of them."
Lakeland is still learning how to win consistently, so how do the T-Birds learn to realize their full potential on a consistent basis?
"This season the girls know that they have lots of potential and that shows," Siegel said. "They were just as disappointed in the loss on Thursday as us coaches were. My assistant coach and I remind them of how good they are. We take them through film to show them how well they have played already this season. This season the team is more on board with how well we have been playing right off that bat and that shows the confidence they have within themselves and the team."
Lakeland returns to the court for a GNC match at Antigo tonight at 7 p.m.
Nick Sabato may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @SabatoNick.