LAKE MILLS — With her team trailing late in the fifth set Tuesday night, Lakeside Lutheran girls volleyball coach Jennifer Krauklis stood to the side of the huddle during a timeout called by Lake Mills and let her players do the talking.
Lakeside Lutheran senior libero Kaitlyn Gehler, one of the team’s captains, took it from there and shared her message.
“We have three captains … We know how to interact with our girls,” said Gehler, a UW-Green Bay recruit. “We know how to get our girls pumped up. (Krauklis) has a lot of faith in us.
“I was just saying, ‘We’ve got this. Believe in ourselves. It’s our net. It’s our ball. We can’t play tight. We just need to leave everything on the court.’ ”
In a loud, boisterous environment, Lakeside Lutheran rallied from a 12-8 fifth-set deficit and edged down-the-street rival Lake Mills 22-25, 25-13, 26-28, 25-18, 15-13 in a Capitol North Conference first-place showdown between state-ranked teams.
Senior outside hitter Amber Rowoldt had a match-high 19 kills, senior setter Ellie Westrate produced 48 assists and Gehler had 31 digs for Lakeside Lutheran (18-3 overall, 4-0 Capitol North), ranked second in Division 2 in the Wisconsin Volleyball Coaches Association state rankings.
The 5-foot-11 Rowoldt delivered a kill, putting the Warriors ahead 14-13 in the fifth set, before junior right-side hitter Kaitlyn Shadoski finished the 1-hour, 50-minute match with a kill.
“Tonight was a big battle for us,” Rowoldt said. “We came out with a great victory. We had to work for it.”
The eighth-ranked L-Cats (15-2, 3-1) had the Warriors on the ropes with tough serving and outstanding defense. Junior Calla Borchert had a match-best six blocks while senior Grace Buechel and sophomore Tatum Riggleman dug up 28 and 26 balls, respectively.
“We work on defense,” Lake Mills coach Courtney Brock said. “These kids are working, they are moving, they are getting their hands on everything. … (The Warriors) are the best-hitting team we have come across.”
Krauklis, whose squad advanced to the WIAA Division 2 state semifinals last year, returned the praise, complimenting the L-Cats.
“I thought it would be a very good game,” Krauklis said. “Lake Mills has been working hard in the offseason to get better. They are the best team we’ve seen so far defensively. It was hard to find open spots. On the flip side, we made a lot of mistakes — hitting and serving.”
After senior setter Lauren McAdow’s ace gave the L-Cats the final point in a third-set victory, Krauklis turned to Rowoldt, the 2016 Capitol North Player of the Year, to pick up her game and help even the match in the fourth set.
During timeouts in that set, Krauklis talked twice outside the huddle to Rowoldt, a Palm Beach Atlantic University recruit. After the first time, Rowoldt crushed consecutive kills, propelling the Warriors to a 10-4 lead.
“I told her to lead her team,” Krauklis said. “The girls look up to Amber. She did a phenomenal job after that timeout turning things around.”
Added Rowoldt, who also had four service aces: “(Krauklis) sees the open things. She tells you what is open. She provides really good information. … As a leader and a captain, she wants me to keep positive energy.”
The Warriors later scored six consecutive points to gain a 22-17 lead in the fourth set, before coming back from 4-1, 11-7 and 12-8 deficits in the final set.
“They are upset,” Brock said of her players, who hoped to give her a victory for her birthday. “I’m probably less so. It’s disappointing we lost a big game like this, but they put their heart in it. They left it all on the court. There were just a few things here and there.”
Lakeside Lutheran 22 25 26 25 15
Lake Mills 25 13 28 18 13
Lakeside Lutheran (leaders): Kills — Rowoldt 19. Digs — Gehler 31. Blocks — Birschbach 3. Aces — Gnabasik 5. Assists -– Westrate 48.
Lake Mills: Kills — Q. Borchert 9. Digs — Buechel 28, Riggleman 26. Blocks — C. Borchert 6. Aces — L. McAdow 3. Assists — L. McAdow 29.