Redemption time for Lake Mills

Published 8:47 am Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Although it’s just a second round playoff match, it’s one the Lake Mills volleyball team has wanted since the end of last season.

The No. 6-ranked Bulldogs (36-3) will meet Central Springs (22-7) Tuesday in Lake Mills in the second round of the Class 2A, Region 5 playoffs and will try to get some redemption after losing to the Panthers in the second round last year at home.

Before the 2008 season started Lake Mills senior middle hitter Jordynn Brackey said she wanted another crack at Central Springs after suffering a season-ending loss to the Panthers in volleyball and softball. Nothing would be sweeter for Brackey than a win and a step closer to the state tournament.

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“We just know that last year we felt as though we were prepared, but when the actual game came down we didn’t come out on top,” Brackey said. “So this year we just want to make sure that’s a different story.”

Brackey leads Lake Mills with 690 kills on the season and has helped the Bulldogs set a school record for wins in a season. The previous record was 34 wins, but Lake Mills has bested that by two thus far. The Bulldogs have just three losses on the season and would like to keep it that way.

“Ultimately our goal is to get to state and this is just one more step toward getting there,” Brackey said.

While Lake Mills has set the school record for wins, it’s one loss that has seemed to re-energize the team as it neared the playoffs.

In the North Iowa Conference Tournament Oct. 6 the Bulldogs saw their 62 conference match winning streak come to end, but if there was ever a good loss, this one might qualify.

“After that it was kind of a wake-up call where we realized we can’t just step out on the court and think that they are going to let us win,” Brackey said. “We have to work hard for everything we want. It was a good time for it.”

Lake Mills head coach Jim Boehmer noticed an increase in the intensity in practice following the loss and the team got an opportunity to rectify the earlier loss to the Green Devils in the first round of the regional playoffs last Tuesday with a 3-2 win.

“It gave us a lot of excitement and gave us a lot of motivation that we can play in intense situations,” Boehmer said. “It gave us a confidence boost in terms of tight matches. We want to believe we can hold our composure in those situations.”

The Bulldogs have had six matches go to a final game and have come out on top five times. Boehmer expects another close match with Central Springs Tuesday. Lake Mills has defeated the Panthers twice, 2-1 at a Central Springs tournament and 3-1 Oct. 14.

“They’ve done a good job of putting that behind them (the Osage win) and trying to focus on Central Springs,” Boehmer said. “We realize this is just another round like the first round.”

The Bulldogs had a difficult time against the Panthers last season. Of their five losses, two came against Central Springs.

“It would mean a lot because we lost to them and it was our last game,” outside hitter Sammy Nelson said. “It was home which made it even worse. I think if we can pull it off this year it will definitely be a very good game.”

The Panthers have been in and out of the rankings all season long and have a trio of senior hitters that average better than two kills a game. Central Springs is led by Mikayla Overturf who averages 3.3 kills a game.

Lake Mills knows the challenge the Panthers present, but it is still far from its goal of a state tournament. It’s a goal the team has had for a long time. The seniors this year have played together since fourth grade and believe this is the year for a state tournament.

“My cousin, who graduated in 2004, told me when I was a freshman that, ‘Your senior year I know you’re going, you better be going,’” Nelson said. “We’ve gone down every year to watch, but I want to be down on that court. I think it would be an awesome experience.”

A win against Central Springs put the Bulldogs two matches away from the state tournament.

“For us it’s four big steps that we need to take and we’ve taken one,” Boehmer said. “You have to keep them in progression and it’s another step.

“We feel that if we’re on, we feel that we can be the best team in our regional. But we also know it’s about being the best team on that night. You can be the best team in the regional, but we’re not playing a round robin.”