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The Lakeland men's volleyball team fell short of its national title defense, falling 18-25, 25-18, 15-12 in the semifinals to Fresno St. at the NCCS Men's Volleyball Championships in Kansas City, Mo.The Bulldogs went on to defeat UW-Oshkosh, Lakeland's Wisconsin Volleyball Conference rival, in the finals in three sets.
With the trip to the semifinals, the Muskies (42-10) sealed their fifth straight season in the top 10 in the country, and their fourth finish in the top five in the last five years. The team finished tied for third in the final national rankings with Illinois.
After knocking off WVC foe Marquette 25-23, 25-16 in the "Sweet 16," Lakeland defeated UCLA 25-17, 20-25, 17-15 in the quarterfinals to set up the match against Fresno St.
"We were a little lucky to get out of the Marquette and UCLA matches," Schreiber said. "UCLA went on a six-point serving run to end the second set, and had a chance to win in the third. We were fortunate to turn the momentum against Marquette."
Down 13-14 in the third set against UCLA, Lakeland appeared to lose the match when a ball was hit out of bounds on the ensuing point. However, UCLA was whistled for a net call, and the Muskies came back to take the match.
"Our season was over for a half a second," Lakeland senior Joe Julkowski said. "I still had tears in my eyes during the last few points because I thought our season was over."
The Muskies were 4-1 on their way to the championship bracket.
On Friday, Lakeland beat Missouri (25-20, 25-19) and San Diego State (25-19, 25-19).
The Muskies exacted revenge on two opponents, Marquette and Missouri, after losing to the teams in a pair of tournament finals during the season.
The team won its pool on Thursday, the first day of action, taking down UC-Davis (25-20, 25-20) and Minnesota (25-17, 25-18). The Muskies dropped their third match to Arizona St. (25-17, 25-22) after they had already clinched the pool.Players and coaches were disappointed with the finish, but not with how the team played.
Lakeland, the No. 6 seed in the Gold Bracket, also won the WVC regular season championship, finishing tied atop the league with UW-Oshkosh.
"We played well all year and accomplished many of our goals, even though we didn't win a tournament," Julkowski said. "I didn't think we'd make it this far, but we helped each other believe in it."