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With 2-0 wins over UW-Stout, UW-Platteville, UW-La Crosse and UW-Stevens Point in the final Wisconsin Volleyball Conference regular-season matches, the Lakeland College men's volleyball team clinched the program's first-ever regular-season conference title on Saturday, Apr. 7, at Lakeland.
With the WVC title, the Muskies (38-7, 13-1 WVC) also claimed the No. 1 seed in Saturday's conference tournament.
"This is our first varsity regular-season conference title," said head coach Chad Schreiber. "In 1998 we won the JV title because we only sponsored a JV team at that time, so it means a lot. It's hard to celebrate right now because our ultimate goal is to win the conference tournament, but it will be nice to look back at this."
The title is also a special achievement for senior middle hitter Adam Plach, as he has been a part of the program for five years, but he and the rest of his teammates also have higher goals in mind.
"It's good to win the first outright season championship that Lakeland has ever had," Plach said. "But it's still a big focus for us to finish up the conference tournament and finish strong at nationals. Regardless of what you do during the regular season, it doesn't really mean much. What really matters is how you finish at nationals."
Although the Muskies (38-7, 13-1 WVC) made short work of all four teams, handily defeating Stout (25-12, 25-14), Platteville (25-13, 25-17) and La Crosse (25-14, 25-15) on Friday night and dispensing of Stevens Point (25-14, 25-11) on Saturday, Schreiber had a few reservations of his squad's ability to keep playing at the level they are capable of.
"I was most nervous last night because we had three matches in one night and we knew if we were going to get beat, it would be against one of the teams last night," Schreiber said.
Plach was more concerned with his team's ability to stay alert and not become complacent on the court, as the Muskies will likely face the top teams in the WVC, namely UW-Oshkosh and Marquette, later in the tournament.
"We just wanted to make sure that we maintained our focus and finished the matches out," Plach said. "We wanted to make sure we didn't get lazy and pick up bad habits because once you play the better teams, it gets hard to turn that switch on and try to pick up the tempo against higher competition."
The Muskies also showed their ability to evenly disperse their scoring power throughout the remainder of pool play, as a different player was the team's high-scorer in each match. Sophomore outside hitter Joe Julkowski led the team against Stout, tallying seven kills and adding three digs while sophomore setter Matt Clemens put up 24 assists and had four digs. Junior middle hitter Jared Rohland led against Platteville with six kills, while senior middle hitter Adam Plach produced a steady stat line against La Crosse with four kills, two assists and one block. Senior outside hitter Matt Martin rounded out the team's kills leaders against UW-Stevens Point with nine kills and five digs.
Lakeland will begin WVC tournament play at 12 p.m., facing UW-Stevens Point once again before facing off with some of the tougher teams.
"Hopefully the competition going up in increments will help us ultimately to gear up and get ready for the finals," Plach said.