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Although a tough call at the end of game one almost foiled Lakeland's chances of defeating Concordia University Chicago, the Muskies (15-13, 6-3 NAC) came back to tally a huge Northern Athletics Conference win, 3-2 (30-32, 30-22, 24-30, 30-24, 15-10), at home on Thursday, Oct. 19.
"It's the first time I've had to win four games to win a three game match," said head coach Chad Schreiber.
Lakeland appeared to have achieved a comeback victory in game one, 31-29, on a line-drive spike from freshman middle hitter Kim Linger. However, the hit was ruled a net violation, and the Cougars went on to claim the game, 30-32.
Despite the tough break, the squad was able to maintain their focus to mount a comeback.
"It wasn't that tough to lose game one," said junior outside hitter Ashley Domask, who led the Muskies in kills with 20 and added 13 digs.
"There were times during the game where we played well, so we knew we could get it back. When we play good defense, it brings us up and helps our offense. It really brings our game together."
That defensive effort was a huge asset for the squad, as freshman outside hitter and defensive specialist Brittanie Paulus led the digs count with 20, backed by 13 digs from freshman libero Tonia Strebelinski.
Despite an abundance of offensive slip-ups in game three, which saw the team's hitting percentage plunge to .070 from the .186 average for the game, the squad got back on track in game four to lead by as many as ten points.
In game five the Muskies came out firing to rip off five unanswered points, generated in part by two aces in a row from Paulus. From then on, the score was never closer than three points as the home squad went on to finish the game to claim the match win.
"I'm disappointed it took us so long to use our communication to gain momentum," Schreiber said. "But I was happy with the trust they showed in one another to win the match."
The win is big for the Muskies in terms of conference rankings, as Concordia had only lost one other NAC match before tonight.
"I'm happy with how our outside hitters picked up their hitting effort from where they left off in Texas," Schreiber said. "The Texas tournament was a real breakthrough for them."
Paulus aided the offensive effort with 16 kills, followed by freshman middle hitter Kim Linger and sophomore outside hitter Heidi Kramer with 15 and 13 kills respectively.
Sophomore setter Jessica Sparling racked up an impressive 61 assists, and freshman middle hitter Jessica Keller came off the bench in game two to lead the team in blocks with three.
"This was the hardest team coming into our last few games in conference," Domask said. "Now we can put it behind us and continue to improve our play."
The Muskies will continue match play this Saturday, Oct. 21, with a pair of home matches. First will be a NAC match against Wisconsin Lutheran at 12 p.m., followed by a non-conference match against St. Norbert at 4 p.m.
"We have all our sights set on the first match because it depends on us making the conference tournament, but St. Norbert should be a quality opponent," said Schreiber.