Amber Rowoldt always seems to be smiling around the volleyball court, and it’s not hard to list the reasons.
Maybe it’s because her Lakeside Lutheran girls have made three WIAA Division 2 sectional finals trips in her four years.
Maybe it’s her three first-team, all-Capitol North Conference awards — or her Capitol North Player of the Year award.
Maybe it’s the fact that her Warriors are ranked fourth in the state and take a 37-5 record into their repeat trip to the WIAA state tournament. Lakeside takes on Waukesha Catholic Memorial (30-21) in a Division 2 semifinal at 4 p.m. Friday at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon.
Maybe it's that the 5-foot, 10-inch senior outside hitter leads Lakeside in four of five key statistical categories, notching 456 kills (on a .360 percentage), 57 aces (tied for the lead), 437 digs and 18 blocks.
Whatever the reason, that beaming smile marks a bit of a change in those who have known Rowoldt through all four of her years as a starter for the Warriors.
Despite a shy demeanor as a freshman in 2015, Rowoldt's talent and ability earned her first-team all-conference honors — and the honor of serving as a team captain as a sophomore. Still, coach Jenny Krauklis recalls, "she was very timid.”
"She is a very humble leader,” the coach said.
But Rowoldt led Lakeside to the 2016 Capitol North title and earned first-team all-conference, second-team all-area and honorable mention all-state honors.
As a junior last year, Rowoldt led the Warriors all the way to the state tournament, where they dropped a four-set semifinal to eventual runner-up Green Bay Notre Dame to close a 38-5 season.
“It was sad,” Rowoldt said. “But it had been 16 years since (Lakeside) had been to state. And with all the people coming back, (we thought) 'we're going back, and we're going to give it our all to get back there.'”
And they completed that task last week, defeating powerhouse programs from East Troy and Mount Horeb in sectional play — even though the path got bumpy at times.
The Warriors strugged in their sectional semifinal against East Troy, twice losing sets after blowing 10-point leads and needing to work five sets to advance to the sectional final.
“We let the other teams go on runs, which are based on our own errors,” Krauklis said.
After a Saturday sweep of Mount Horeb in the sectional final, the path is now set for Rowoldt to lead her team's push for a state championship.
That's a goal, she said, but the path she aims to follow to get there does not include getting all worked up about it.
"My Dad always says, 'no matter what, have fun.' And if you have fun, then it goes off to teammates and they all have fun,” Rowoldt said.
Krauklis said the word "fun" sews up this year's team in a nutshell.
“Last year, our team was very focused and determined — so much so that there were times we had to remind them to laugh and have fun," the coach said. "This year’s team is always laughing. If you walk into a practice, they’re always laughing and giggling.”
And though Krauklis keeps things fun, the NCAA Division II Palm Beach Atlantic recruit always wants to learn more, improve and encourage her teammates.
This led to the motto the team picked for the season: “Encourage one another and build each other up.” It comes from a Bible passage that the team looks to for its approach to every drill, every practice and every match.
“(There’s) always going to be someone there to have your back and pick you back up in volleyball and in life," Rowoldt said. "No matter what happens, your teammates will be there for you.”
“I’m just so happy that we get to spend another week together,” Krauklis said. “Nobody cut our season short.”