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Gallery: Lake Mills extends winning streak

The Lake Mills volleyball team celebrates after scoring a point Tuesday against Newman Catholic during the first match of a triangular. Lake Mills swept Newman Catholic and North Iowa. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

The Lake Mills volleyball team celebrates after scoring a point Tuesday against Newman Catholic during the first match of a triangular. Lake Mills swept Newman Catholic and North Iowa. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

LAKE MILLS — The schools the Lake Mills volleyball team swept in a triangular Tuesday had a combined two wins on the season, which was a change of pace for the Bulldogs.

“We’ve played 24 matches and 1/3 of those have been against teams that are ranked or have been ranked,” said Lake Mills coach Jim Boehmer after his team — ranked No. 11 in the Class 2A polls — crushed Newman Catholic 3-0 in the opening match of the triangular.

The Bulldogs (23-2 overall) tacked on another win by sweeping North Iowa in the last match of the evening.

Both victories added to Lake Mills’ streak of 78 straight regular season North Iowa Conference wins, dating back 11 years, Boehmer said.

“It’s a long streak among some powerhouse schools,” he said. “It’s special to the kids and to the community.”

Rachel Segura was Lake Mills’ only returning senior starter this season, but the team hasn’t had many growing pains. The Bulldogs’ have beaten six ranked or previously ranked teams, and their only losses have been against No. 13 (3A) Forest City and No. 15 (3A) Algona.

“We were optimistic (at the start of the season), but it was one of those deals where we knew we’d have to see what happened when we started playing,” Boehmer said. “I’m pleased with where our young kids are and where they’ve gotten themselves.”

A big hole to fill from last year was at the setter position with the graduation of Brooke Hagen, an All-State honorable mention selection.

Kelsea Heintzman answered the call and has flourished as the Bulldogs’ setter.

“It’s a big role to take over, but it’s been fun,” Heintzman said. “It’s great to play in this type of environment. We’ve accomplished what we’ve wanted at this point, but we’ve still got bigger goals.”

Heintzman leads Class 2A in assists with 569, a total that’s more than 100 more than the No. 2 setter in the class — Paige Schafer of Eddyville-Blakesburg with 460. The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union divided schools into five classes for volleyball, and the only setter with more assists in the state is Samantha Bohnet of Abraham Lincoln High School in Council Bluffs, a Class 5A school, with 669 assists.

“She’s one of the best setters state-wide,” Boehmer said.

Heintzman is a junior, and Boehmer said fellow junior Cede Byrnes is also having an exceptional season.

“Cede is leading us hitting percentage-wise, in total kills and kills per set,” he said. “She has really grown into her role as a go-to person on the left side for us.”

Byrnes is third in the North Iowa Conference and 10th in Class 2A with 160 kills. She said the team’s chemistry has been years in the making.

“We’ve always been a close team — we’ve been playing together since seventh grade,” Byrnes said. “We’re just a group of friends. Its easy for us to come together even with some of the younger girls coming up.”

Against Newman Catholic, Byrnes and Sydney Larson tied with a team-high nine kills, and Heintzman led the Bulldogs with 26 assists.

Byrnes had a team-high 14 kills against North Iowa, while Heintzman added 40 more assists.

Boehmer said he’s seen improvement across the board this season.

“It’s one of those years that each night it’s a little bit different,” he said. “Sometimes the middles have taken over, and then the next night the left side’s our strength. In the first set tonight, I liked the way Rachel (Segura) was hitting on the right side.”

Segura had six kills, six digs, two assists and a block against Newman Catholic, and she added four kills, five digs, a block and an ace serve against North Iowa.

Next, Lake Mills will play at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Bishop Garrigan Tournament.

“That’s a tough one,” Boehmer said. “We’ve only lost seven or eight regular season matches in five years, but two of those are teams we play Saturday (Garner-Hayfield/Ventura and Clarion-Goldfield). We know we have some tough matches ahead, but it’ll be a good day for us.”

Statistics are in the Scoreboard: Sept. 23 post.