Emily Orban of Lake Mills gets a dig Monday in the semifinal match of the North Iowa Conference volleyball tournament. Orban tallied four digs. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune
Emily Orban of Lake Mills gets a dig Monday in the semifinal match of the North Iowa Conference volleyball tournament. Orban tallied four digs. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Gallery: Bulldogs to regroup after loss

Published 9:12pm Monday, October 7, 2013

LAKE MILLS — After securing its 10th straight North Iowa Conference regular-season crown with a win over Mason City on Oct. 1, the Lake Mills volleyball team was unable to duplicate the result at the conference tournament on Monday.

Garner-Hayfield/Ventura — a team the Bulldogs beat twice earlier this season — provided the road block that kept Lake Mills out of the conference championship match. The Cardinals defeated the Bulldogs 3-1 in the semifinals.

After jumping to early leads in each game, Lake Mills couldn’t hold on, which is rare according to Bulldogs head coach Jim Boehmer.

“We just couldn’t close,” he said. “We haven’t lost in this gym since 2002. It’s a weird feeling — almost surreal.”

In Game 1, Lake Mills held onto an 18-17 lead before taking the lead for good on two straight ace serves by Brooke Hagen to win 25-21.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a 6-1 lead in Game 2, but the Cardinals countered with a 16-3 run. Lake Mills made a dent in it’s eight-point deficit with a pair of kills by Morgan Christenson, but Garner-Hayfield/Ventura was able to tie the match with a 25-16 win.

In Game 3, Lake Mills led 16-14 after a kill by Madison Shifflett. However, the Cardinals took their first lead of the game (18-17) and used a 7-3 run to win 25-20.

Same story in Game 4. The Bulldogs led early, but Garner-Hayfield/Ventura finished with a 25-15 run to seal the victory.

“Our mental focus and our physical focus was off,” Boehmer said.

The loss puts a damper on an otherwise stellar season where the Bulldogs compiled an overall record of 28-5, despite returning only one member from last season’s starting rotation that was 43-0 during the regular season.

Christensen and Rachel Segura of Lake Mills tied with a team-high 10 kills. Christensen also led the Bulldogs with four blocks and five ace serves. Hagen earned a team-high 28 assists, and Sarah Orban led Lake Mills with nine digs.

Despite the loss, Boehmer said the team can take something positive from the match.

“If it’s a lesson learned, that’s a good sign,” he said. “If it’s not a lesson learned, then you’re doomed to repeat it… and we don’t want to repeat it.”

To get to the semifinal match, the Bulldogs went 3-0 in pool play on Saturday with 2-0 wins over Newman Catholic, North Iowa and Osage. Lake Mills won those matches by a combined score of 126-59.

Earlier this season, Lake Mills beat Garner-Hayfield/Ventura 3-1 at home on Sept. 19 and 2-1 at the Bishop Garrigan tournament on Sept. 28.

Garner-Hayfield/Ventura lost the championship match in five games to Forest City. Game scores were 22-25, 25-19, 24-26, 25-16 and 15-7. Forest City won its first NIC tournament title since 1986.

Lake Mills defeated Forest City in both of its meetings this year.

Next, the Bulldogs play a triangular against Nashua-Plainfield and North Butler at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

“It’ll be a great test for us,” Boehmer said. “It’s all about how we regroup and refocus.”

Statistics are in the Scoreboard: Oct. 7 post.