The Lakeland Union High School volleyball finished above .500 on Saturday, winning three of their five matches in an invite at Ashland High School.
Coach Carley Punzel called it a long day where it was difficult, at times, to keep momentum. That seemed to show in the results as Lakeland beat Bessemer, Mich., lost to Shell Lake, beat Mellen, lost to Phillips and then ended the day with a win over Chequamegon.
“I knew my girls were going to be tired because we would sit, play, sit, play the whole day,” she said. “With the outcome of that it’s harder on the body due to sitting between each game and not being loosened up at all times. But irregardless of those circumstances, the girls grew as a team as the day went on. With our first conference weekend match coming up, this was a good practice of that.”
Punzel said the team showed confidence in each of its wins. The T-Birds started with a 25-8, 25-19 win over Bessemer, had a strong 25-9, 25-15 win over Mellen and closed with a 25-18, 25-22 win over Chequamegon.
“Our games against Bessemer, Chequamegon, and Mellen were ones we could go for the gold — meaning not (being) afraid of making a mistake and being aggressive with each play,” she said. “Those teams are scrappy but my girls keep giving it to them and we were successful in the end.”
Both of Lakeland’s losses followed similar patterns, with the T-Birds more competitive in the second set than the first. Punzel said Lakeland struggled with Shell Lake’s outside hitting in a 25-4, 25-16 loss and played a much better second set when it loss to Phillips 25-9, 25-22.
“Phillips is a good team. The girls have played them in years past and said the same thing. After the first match we made them realize that our talent is just as good if we work together,” she said. “So we came back in the second game and forced Phillips out of system a lot which then helped us defensively and offensively. With them being our final game I was so proud of how hard they fought to make the game tighter.”
Melissa Bruckner led Lakeland with 27 kills on the day and added 14 digs. Abby Parris had 16 digs, 11 kills and 15 service aces. Lauryn Cameron added nine kills and four blocks, Isabelle Boyer had 15 digs and Caitlin Hartigan and Ashley Marquardt each had 28 set assists.
“Our setters were being smart with where they were placing the set,” Punzel said. “Us coaches now see how much more our girls can increase their level of play, which will help us for our competitive conference matches. Confidence is key.”

Tomahawk sweeps Lakeland
Lakeland couldn’t get much going Thursday night at home as it was swept by Tomahawk in its Great Northern Conference opener, 25-14, 25-16, 25-14.
Punzel said her team appeared to be fired up and ready to go in pre-match warmups, but the Hatchets found a way to halt that momentum and gradually pulled away in each set.
“It’s hard to put into words what exactly happened,” Punzel said. “We did put forth a new rotation because all of our team is back. This whole week we practiced to keep the level of our game at a faster pace, this did not happen against Tomahawk.
“It falls back to doing the basics of volleyball because when you can’t get those down it is hard to increase the level of your play,” she continued. “We are going to take this loss as a learning experience. We are here on a mission this season to be the best team that we can be and last night’s performance was nowhere near where that can be. Tomahawk has a great program and we look forward to playing them again in the future.”
Lakeland spread the wealth, statistically on Thursday night. Parris led the way with three kills and five digs while Bruckner added two kills and five digs. Camille Quade and Cameron each had two kills on the night. Marquardt had four set assists and Hartigan had three. Parris, Bruckner, Parris and Megan Haggart each recorded one service ace.
“Tomahawk has always been a scrappy team and it is the hardest to play against that,” Punzel noted. “On paper we looked fundamentally sound with our defense, which I would agree with; the girls were picking balls up left and right coming from Tomahawk’s strong side hitter. Offensively it just was not happening which put us in hole each game.”
The T-Birds hit the road tonight to take on Medford in a Great Northern Conference match.  
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at jeremy@rivernewsonline.com.