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Lake Mills sets record, advances to regional finals

Emily Orban of Lake Mills dives to dig the ball Friday against Clarion-Goldfield-Dows in the Class 2A Region 5 semifinals. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Emily Orban of Lake Mills dives to dig the ball Friday against Clarion-Goldfield-Dows in the Class 2A Region 5 semifinals. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

LAKE MILLS — A landmark victory kept the Lake Mills volleyball team’s postseason hopes alive.

The Bulldogs eliminated Clarion-Goldfield-Dows 3-0 Friday in the Class 2A Region 5 semifinals and set a school record with 46 wins this season.

To keep his team from looking ahead to the regional final, Lake Mills coach Jim Boehmer said he made sure his team knew about the record.

“I had signs up at school, and we talked about it,” he said. “I wanted their full focus to be on 46 (wins) because if you start looking past a team like Clarion, they’ll beat you.”

Both teams headed into the semifinals with winning streaks. Lake Mills (46-3 overall) had won nine straight, and Clarion-Goldfield-Dows (23-12 overall) had won five straight.

The two squads were familiar with each other after meeting on Sept. 27 at the Algona Tournament. Lake Mills won 2-0. However, the Bulldogs had to squeak out a two-point win in the first set before winning by 11 in the second.

Clarion-Goldfield-Dows proved it was a formidable opponent in the semifinal matchup as well. The first and second sets were tied at 20 before the Bulldogs pulled away.

In the first set, Lake Mills jumped out to a 5-0 lead, but the Cowgirls went on a 9-1 run to take a 9-6 lead. However, the Bulldogs showed fire to battle back with a late run to score five of the last six points and win 25-21.

“The girls seemed to have more energy and more passion,” Boehmer said. “I liked their approach tonight.”

The second set began with an ace serve by Emily Orban, and the Bulldogs jumped to a 9-3 advantage. However, the Cowgirls went on an 8-2 run to tie the set at 20. Lake Mills clung to a one-point lead before a kill by Rachel Segura gave the Bulldogs a 25-23 win.

The third set was the most dominant effort by Lake Mills. The Bulldogs took their first double-digit lead, 16-6, on a kill by Sydney Larson en route to a 25-15 victory.

“We put a lot of effort into it tonight,” said Lake Mills outside hitter Cede Byrnes. “We refocused at practice (after the quarterfinal match against West Fork), and we understood what we were trying to do.”

Kelsea Heintzman led the Bulldogs with 33 assists, and four hitters had eight or more kills.

“Kelsea does a nice job of setting, and she distributes the ball well to all of the hitters,” Byrnes said. “We worked together really well.”

Madison Shifflett had a team-high 13 kills, Byrnes had nine and Larson and Hailey Borgmeyer added eight each.

Out of 73 serves, Lake Mills had six errors. Segura and Jewell Gasteiger tied with a team-high two ace serves each.

Defensively, Brynes led the Bulldogs with 15 kills, and Emily Orban added 11. Larson and Borgmeyer tied with a team-high three blocks.

Next, Lake Mills will face Grundy Center in the regional final at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Hampton. For the right to go to state, a pair of state-ranked teams will battle. In the final regular-season polls, Lake Mills was ranked No. 9, and Grundy Center was No. 7.

“I thought we were aggressive tonight,” Boehmer said. “Against Grundy, we’re going to have to be that and then some.”