Muskies Prevail over Cougars, Move on to NAC Final on Saturday
Athletics - posted on 11/1/2007
The Lakeland College women's volleyball team advanced to the Northern Athletics Tournament championship match, as the No. 1-seeded Muskies defeated No. 4 Concordia University Chicago, 3-0, in semifinal match play on Thursday, Nov. 1, at Lakeland.
The Muskies (22-14) came out firing on all cylinders from the start, building a comfortable margin in the first game to win, 30-14. However, the Cougars refused to back down, making the second and third games more challenging with multiple ties and lead changes. In the end, Lakeland emerged victorious from both games with identical 30-25 results.
Despite the worrisome close scores in the final two games, sophomore outside hitter Brittanie Paulus remained confident in her team's ability to snag the victory.
"I don't think any of us doubted that we would come away with the win," Paulus said. "It was good for us to get them good in the first game because we don't play very well from behind, but even when we were behind we stepped up and proved we can pull through."
Paulus had every right to feel good about the match's outcome, as she produced tremendous efforts on both offense and defense with team-highs in kills (11) and digs (14). Senior outside hitter Ashley Domask was also solid at the net with eight kills, while senior middle hitter Shelly Bruni tallied seven.
Blocking was also a huge asset to the Muskies, with sophomore middle hitter Kim Linger leading with six, followed by junior setter Jessica Sparling and junior right side hitter Heidi Kramer with three big block assists apiece.
"Our right side blockers, Heidi and Jess, made a big difference tonight because Concordia's two big offensive threats come from the outside," said head coach Chad Schreiber. "Any time they tried to take a big swing, our block was there, and they were forced to tip and roll shots instead. Ashley also played well offensively and found a way to get the ball on the floor all the time."
Following a lack-luster effort in Tuesday's quarterfinal match win over Edgewood, Schreiber was concerned with his team's ability to rebound and raise its level of play in time for a tougher match with the Cougars.
"Their own personal preparation made the difference tonight," Schreiber said. "Tuesday night we thought that just showing up ready was good enough, but tonight we really came to play. Our serving was extremely aggressive and sharp."
Paulus echoed Schreiber's comments concerning proper preparation, as she and her teammates knew they needed to play at the top of their game.
"We knew coming in that we couldn't underestimate them and we had to play our game," Paulus said. "We all came in ready to go and communicated well."
Lakeland will now have a shot at earning its first-ever NAC Tournament title, as they face No. 3 Benedictine University on Saturday, Nov. 3. Although the Muskies defeated the Eagles in their first meeting this season, it was a close 3-2 result in a tough back-and-forth match.
However, the Muskies have a lot to play for with both the championship and their undefeated record vs. NAC opponents on the line.
"We're ready to play Saturday," Schreiber said. "We wanted to get to this point where we could play for the championship at home. 13 teams is a lot of teams to win against in a conference, so for us to go undefeated and now make the tournament finals with mostly and unblemished record is an accomplishment. To have to win that many times against that many schools is challenging, and I hope we have one more left in us on Saturday."
In addition to the excitement of competing in the championship match, Paulus and her teammates feel they have something more to prove following last season's premature exit in the first round of the tournament.
"We're pumped about the championships," Paulus said. "We got stumped by Maranatha in the first round last year and were upset about it. We want both plaques this year, so we're going to come in ready to win."
Match time with Benedictine is set for 3 p.m. in Lakeland's Moose and Dona Woltzen Gymnasium.
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