Going up against the top team in the conference, the LUHS volleyball team gave Mosinee everything they could handle in a five-set match.
The Thunderbirds took part in the first GNC Meet at Sheldon Fieldhouse in Antigo on Saturday. They fell 2-3 (25-20, 13-25, 25-22, 21-25, 6-15) to Mosinee before beating Northland Pines 3-0 (25-22, 25-17, 25-17).
“The girls played great volleyball on Saturday. The GNC is a strong conference this year, and Lakeland is solidly in the mix,” coach Manson Morris said. “The tournament matches gave us some good opportunities to adapt our game to opponents with varied offensive and defensive styles.”
Lakeland played some of their best volleyball all season, going up by as many as 11 points late in the first set.
With Greta Johnson (four aces) on the serve, Lakeland got out to a 6-2 start. Kieran Petrie had the pass to Meela Khan who then assisted Petrie for the kill. Meg Pfannerstill powered down a free ball before Stina Peterson had a block. Mosinee called a timeout.
The Thunderbird offense was in a groove early against Mosinee, currently leading the GNC standings. Pfannerstill had three more kills, all assisted by Khan. Khan had 12 assists to lead the Thunderbirds.
It looked like Mosinee was going to get back in it. Petrie had a service error, followed by an ace by Mosinee’s Tristan Wicklund.
Lakeland still led 13-10.
Then, a long rally went Lakeland’s way. That gave them the momentum they needed to go on a defining 10-3 run.
“You get better with every single touch and no matter what, we’re always working really hard and putting in the effort and our communication improved drastically throughout the day so we were really able to improve on that,” Grace Redenbaugh said.
In that run, Cale Quade got the ball to Khan who assisted Pfannerstill for another kill. Khan had an ace, forcing Mosinee into their next timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, Lakeland displayed their defense. Sloane Timmerman and Stina Peterson combined for a block. Evenhouse was also part of a block.
Mosinee made things interesting with a 7-0 run due to the serving of Lisa Maurer. Lakeland turned to their top attacker in Pfannerstill to close it out. Khan had the assist and Johnson the pass.
It was the first time since Sept. 21, 2019 that Lakeland took a set from Mosinee.
Maurer and Mosinee were off to the races in set two. She helped them to a 5-1 lead.
The second set was all Mosinee. Bella Kyhos, Maggie Woller and MaKayla Weisner all had kills in the set. Lakeland had a tough time putting anything together as Mosinee clicked offensively and defensively.
Six service errors by Mosinee stopped their momentum at times. They still went on to win 25-13 to tie the match at 1-1. Mosinee committed 14 service errors in the match compared to 13 aces.
The Thunderbirds showed their toughness with a response in set three. Down 5-10, Morris called his first timeout. Lakeland would then go on a 20-12 run to win the set.
“It was pretty fun,” Tayiah Bauman said. “It gets pretty intense at times, but I feel like we play better when we’re all having fun.”
Evenhouse passed to Bauman who assisted Pfannerstill for a kill. Pfannerstill led the Thunderbirds with 14 kills and 20 digs in the contest.
Lakeland forced Mosinee into mistakes with Johnson on the serve. She helped the Thunderbirds to their first lead at 14-13.
Later on, Pfannerstill had an ace to put Lakeland up 20-19. Just like that, Mosinee had a one-point lead at 21-20.
Two straight service errors, one by each team, gave Mosinee a 22-21 advantage. Lakeland would go on to win the final four points.
Defense came up big again for the Thunderbirds. Peterson was part of a block to tie the set at 22-22. Mosinee then hit the ball out. Another block by Lakeland forced Mosinee into a timeout. Peterson had eight assisted blocks. Timmerman accounted for five.
The final Lakeland point came when Mosinee hit the ball into the net. The Thunderbirds led the match 2-1.
Taking the momentum they gained from their win, Lakeland raced out to a 10-5 lead in set four. Evenhouse-Bauman-Khan combined for a point. Timmerman was part of a block. Mosinee called timeout.
In set three, Lakeland came back from a 5-10 deficit. Mosinee did the same thing in the fourth set. Wicklund had a kill. Mosinee’s defense then blocked a Khan attack. Mosinee led 20-15 and were on a 15-5 run.
Amber Gonzalez got two straight aces for Mosinee to put them up 24-18. Lakeland found a little energy late with a Pfannerstill-Bauman-Khan connection for a point. Timmerman then assisted Quade for a kill.
Weisner finished the set with a kill and a point. She led Mosinee with 14 kills.
The last time Lakeland participated in a fifth set, they got off to a slow start vs. Tomahawk on Sept. 12. Once again, their opponent got off to a strong start and never looked back.
“Five-set matches are always challenging to close. The final, 15-point rally set is very short,” Morris said. “Volleyball scoring frequently comes in waves, and if the initial wave doesn’t go our way, it can be a steep, uphill climb to change the momentum before a short set ends.”
Weisner had two kills as the Mosinee defense flew around the court. Maurer had another ace early. She had five aces in the game compared to just one service error.
“I think we (showed we can play with them) because we took them to five (sets) and usually in the past we just get swept by them,” Bauman said. “I thought we proved that we could hang with the team, we just kind of all gave up at the end and got down on ourselves. I think we can beat them.”
Another kill came courtesy of Mosinee’s Bridget Frye. They had all the momentum and were up 6-1. In the end, Mosinee found a way to win the set and the match.
“Don’t have them run on us right away and score so many points on us right away,” Bauman said about what the Thunderbirds learned in the loss.
Counting last year, the Thunderbirds have lost three straight fifth sets.
“The agility we’re working to enhance has the potential to pay big dividends in fifth sets,” Morris said. “It will also increase our ability to finish matches before we have the need for a fifth set.”
After a bye in round two, the Thunderbirds were looking to rebound against Northland Pines (0-5 GNC). They took care of business to get the sweep.
“We came back from the break, and we had a lot of energy, and we were ready to go, and we just want to make every touch count,” Redenbaugh said.
Karlin Williams tied the first set at 3-3 with an ace. Khan assisted Pfannerstill with a couple of kills. Then, it was Williams-Pfannerstill-Khan for another point.
Lakeland started to separate themselves with Pfannerstill on the serve. Bauman assisted Evenhouse for a kill.
The Eagles kept the game close, even taking the lead a couple times in set one. They lead 16-15.
Pfannerstill showed her defense as well as her offense. She dived on the court that led to a point, forcing the Eagles into at timeout.
Up by just one point, Pfannerstill got Lakeland the final two points. They led 1-0 in the match.
“A focus for us in the coming week will be increasing the speed and precision of our adjustments,” Morris said. “These are decisions that need to be made on the floor in real time, and our athletes are rapidly developing the skills they need to make the game more fluid.”
Set two was a wire-to-wire win for Lakeland. They got out to a fast 7-1 lead with Williams serving. She had an ace. Khan assisted Quade and Pfannerstill for kills.
Northland Pines closed the gap to 12-16 with kills by Zoe Anderson and Kirkland Williams.
The Thunderbirds didn’t let up. Pfannerstill passed it to Bauman who had the assist on a Pfannerstill kill. Pfannerstill backed that up with a couple of aces.
Peterson helped the Thunderbirds achieve a set two victory. She had a couple of kills as Lakeland led 2-0 in the match.
Northland Pines hung around for a bit in the third set. They had a 5-4 lead at one point and had the game tied at 7-7.
Lakeland didn’t panic. Khan, Timmerman and Redenbaugh helped the Thunderbirds slowly grow their lead. Pfannerstill had a block and kill to put Lakeland up 19-13.
Redenbaugh talked about being a senior leader.
“I just want to set a positive example,” she said. “That way we can leave a legacy for awhile to come.”
The final points of the afternoon came courtesy of Peterson and Pfannerstill with kills. Khan assisted both of them.
Up next, the Thunderbirds (8-7, 3-2) travel right back to Sheldon Fieldhouse in Antigo for a conference matchup with the Red Robins. The match takes place at 7 p.m. today.
Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected].