The Lakeside Lutheran girls faced a big challenge in their first conference appearance this season.

The Warriors went toe-to-toe with the Luther Prep Phoenix in Watertown Sept. 4, and came away with a 3-2 win that showed just what the team might be capable of in 2018.

“We have really been improving since the beginning of the season, and that’s awesome,” head coach Jennifer Krauklis said in her post-game comments. “What I loved was that tonight, you could really see that improvement out on the court.”

The Lakeside coach said Luther Prep is probably the best squad her ladies have faced so far this season – including those seen in tournament play. She was pleased to see the lessons from practice finally coming to fruition during games.

The Phoenix were not about to make things easy for the visiting team, taking the first set 25-19 despite Lakeside taking an early lead. The home team drew even at 8-8, and then pulled away.

Luther Prep went up 2-0 right away in the second, but Lakeside snuck in to tie things up at two. The Phoenix pushed out to a 5-3 lead, but Lakeside capitalized on a Luther Prep attack that went out of bounds to knot things up at six and then take over the set.

The Warrior ladies pushed out to a 12-8 lead at one point, but could not get further away from the home team than that, as Luther Prep pull back to within one on a missed block. The tit-for-tat style of play continued for the remainder of the set, but Lakeside prevailed for 25-23 win to make the match 1-1.

The Lady Warriors trailed 11-2 early in the third set when Krauklis called for a time out. She let her captains handle the conversation on the court and stepped back to see what would happen.

“That’s my coaching style. I don’t say too much to them. I feel like they’re the ones who have to play out on the court, they’re the ones who are going to have to figure that out,” she explained later.

The conversation she overheard prominently featured the team’s theme word of the season, “fight,” and she indicated it seemed obvious her girls were not ready to quit.

The result was a 26-24 set win to give Lakeside the 2-1 edge over Luther Prep.

The fourth set saw both teams giving no quarter, trading sides out between nearly every serve of the contest. The end was a thriller, as the Phoenix pulled even at 2-2 with their 29-27 victory to force a fifth set.

Things looked dire early in the fifth for the Lakeside ladies, but they slowly started to chip away at Luther Prep’s defenses. The Phoenix were not going to go down without a fight, but the visiting team eventually prevailed with a 15-13 set win to take the match.

Krauklis called out Hannah Willems and Kylee Gnabasik as big contributors for the night’s success.

“She (Willems) was on the varsity team last year, but didn’t see a lot of court time. She’s really come through this year as a leader, and takes control when she needs to,” the Lakeside coach said. “Kylee Gnabasik did a great job in the back row, keeping our balls alive tonight.”

The Warriors faced Lodi and played a tournament at Kettle Moraine Lutheran to end last week, and kicked off the week hosting Columbus Tuesday. They head across the street to Lake Mills High School tonight, and then head to Edgerton Saturday.

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