ADAMS — The kills come from all angles and at all speeds, revealing knowledge of craft beyond her years.
When Amber Rowoldt elevates her 5-foot-11 frame above the net, she hovers and surveys the court for weak points in the defense before unleashing an array of blasts and tips that are as befuddling as they are intimidating.
And after each and every one of her kills, the senior outside hitter for Lakeside Lutheran turns to her teammates to acknowledge their effort in producing her highlight-reel hits.
Rowoldt repeated her gracious gesture 15 times Saturday as the senior-laden Warriors put on a crisp and dynamic display in rolling past Mount Horeb 25-17, 25-17, 25-11 to earn their second consecutive WIAA Division 2 state girls volleyball tournament berth.
“Amber is probably the most humble player I have ever coached, especially of her caliber. That’s really rare to come across,” Lakeside Lutheran coach Jenny Krauklis said of Rowoldt, a recruit of NCAA Division II Palm Beach Atlantic.
“She is very coachable, and while she’s a great player, she wants to get better. That has really pushed her to be who she is today, and her teammates see that if Amber still has a ways to go, they do as well.”
Vikings coach Kurt Owen was impressed.
“She’s fantastic — definitely one of the best players in the area, in the state even,” said Owen, whose Badger North Conference champs lost to Lakeside Lutheran in the sectional final for the second straight year.
“She’s got so many weapons. She jumps so high to begin with, and at that point she can decide whether to rip it or hit a smart shot. Her head’s in the game — she’s focused, and she’s a smart player.”
The fourth-ranked Warriors (36-5) will meet Waukesha Catholic Memorial (18-15) in a 4 p.m. state semifinal on Friday at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon.
Rowoldt broke a 15-15 tie in the opening set with a deft tip that sparked a 9-2 closing burst. After allowing the opening points of the second set, Lakeside Lutheran never trailed again and limited the Vikings to no more than two consecutive service points.
The backbreaking point was nearly a literal one. With the Warriors reclaiming serve at 16-10 in the second set, senior middle hitter Kelsey Birschbach made a diving save while crashing into the scorer’s table, executing a blind, one-arm swing that propelled the ball just inside the antenna.
Mount Horeb quickly went to its top hitter, 6-4 middle Elise Goetzinger (11 kills), but outside hitters Rowoldt and Kaitlyn Shadoski recognized the void and slid in for a combo block.
“That was amazing,” Birschbach said. “That just shows how our team can see what’s going on.”
Said Owen: “That’s championship level volleyball — everybody laying out for everything, believing in your teammates, believing in yourself, and not being tentative. That’s the type of team we are, but unfortunately it didn’t happen today.”
Libero Kaitlyn Gehler, a UW-Green Bay recruit, led the defensive effort for Lakeside Lutheran, while fellow senior Sophia Collins amassed 15 points on serve in the third set.
“I grew up in a family where it was, never put yourself first — always put others first,” Rowoldt said. “Incorporating that into volleyball, you can’t get anywhere with just one person. It’s a whole team effort, even the girls on the bench, because they practice against us and push us. We love each other and we’re all best friends.”
Lakeside Lutheran 25 25 25
Mount Horeb 17 17 11
LAKESIDE LUTHERAN (leaders) — Kills: Rowoldt 15. Assists: Westrate 21. Aces: Westrate 4. Digs: Gehler 19. Blocks: Birschbach 2.5.
MOUNT HOREB (leaders) — Kills: Goetzinger 11. Assists: Gr. Shay 22. Aces: Thompson 1. Digs: Gr. Shay 12. Blocks: Goetzinger, Holman, Gr. Shay, Thompson 1.