ASHWAUBENON — The Comeback.
It’s a phrase that will be repeated for years when people talk about the Lakeside Lutheran girls volleyball program.
The Warriors trailed two sets to none against Luxemburg-Casco in the WIAA Division 2 state championship match on Saturday at the Resch Center.
But the Warriors’ season wasn’t done. Not by a long shot.
The Warriors rattled off victories in the third and fourth sets to send the match to the fifth. Lakeside Lutheran led 10-4 in the decisive set, but Luxemburg-Casco wouldn’t go away. Finally, Lakeside Lutheran got to match point and Amber Rowoldt — as she has done all season — pounded home a kill to end it.
The 19-25, 13-25, 25-22, 25-23, 15-10 victory gave fourth-ranked Lakeside Lutheran (39-5) the first state title in program history.
“This match really was just a summary of our entire season — of how these girls can get pushed to the limit, and they turn around and fight back and never give up,” Lakeside coach Jenny Krauklis said. “And that is just really the theme of our whole season.
“No matter what the outcome would have been, I would have been so proud because they came back with such a hard fight. And that’s what I love to see.”
Said Luxemburg-Casco coach Jeff Frey: “It was a great match (with) everything you’d want in a state final.”
After losing the first two sets, Lakeside Lutheran — especially its seniors — looked overmatched by the taller Spartans (41-9). Plenty of soul-searching took place in the Warriors’ huddle prior to the third set.
“We all just saw the look in each other’s eyes (that) we weren’t going to give up,” said Rowoldt, a senior who tallied 29 kills Saturday to break the Division 2 single-match record, and broke another division record with 48 kills in two tournament matches. “We weren’t going to let them just come and take over us.”
“We came out (in) the third, fourth and fifth sets on fire. I’m going to say I think we played our best volleyball right there — and it’s pretty cool to say that we did that at state,” Lakeside senior Kaitlyn Gehler said.
“I wasn’t worried at all losing the first two sets. I believe in every single one of these girls that I have here on my team. Losing the first two sets just drove us even more to play our hardest. We knew we weren’t playing our absolute best volleyball, but we were still able to do some really good things the first two sets.”
Luxemburg-Casco built a solid wall with its three 6-foot players on the front row. Rowoldt and her teammates had a tough time working around the block until they changed their approach in the third set, hitting down the lines instead of punching through.
“We really focused on hitting those shots that are open,” said Rowoldt, who will play at NCAA Division II Palm Beach Atlantic next season. “Instead of hitting all cross-court toward their libero, because she was a very good libero and dug it up, we started hitting (down the) line and taking their setter out of their rotation.”
Krauklis added her team needed to quicken up its attack. “We did start to quicken up, move it around and try and get their blockers off set a little,” Krauklis said. “When we did that, it opened up some more shots for us.”
Luxemburg-Casco won the opening two sets in large part to a hitting percentage of .344, while Lakeside Lutheran was limited to a .149 percentage.
Lakeside Lutheran got seven kills from Rowoldt in the third set and held off a late rally by Luxemburg-Casco. In the fourth, the Warriors never trailed and pushed the match to a fifth and decisive set.
Up 4-3, Lakeside Lutheran got an ace from Rowoldt and a kill from Ellie Westrate on its way to a 10-4 lead. Luxemburg-Casco called a timeout and answered with a 5-1 run to cut the deficit to 11-9.
But the Warriors players clamped down. Sitting at match point in the fifth set, Rowoldt tallied the kill before the Lakeside players piled onto one another in celebration.
“It doesn’t feel real,” said Ellie Westrate, one of Lakeside’s seven seniors. “It’s crazy that we’ve worked so hard for this and it’s here. We got it.”
Lakeside Lutheran 19 13 25 25 15
Luxemburg-Casco 25 25 22 23 10
LAKESIDE LUTHERAN (leaders): Kills (56) — Rowoldt 29, S. Collins 15. Assists (50) — Westrate 43, Gehler 5. Digs (65) — Gehler 27, Gnabasik 11, Westrate 10. Blocks (1) — Kuepers 1. Aces (10) — Gehler 5, Rowoldt 2, Westrate 2. Attack pct. — .163.
LUXEMBURG-CASCO (leaders): Kills (58) — Schiltz 16, Dorner 13, VandenBush 12. Assists (57) – Cannon 49. Digs (82) — Wotruba 27, Prevost 13, Cannon 12. Blocks (3) – Thayse 1, Dorner 1. Aces (8) — Prevost 3, Wotruba 2. Attack pct. — .240.