MADISON — For the last four seasons, the regional final round has been a stumbling block for the L-Cats.
The team’s senior class — eight players in total — were determined to change that. And in a big way.
The third-seeded Lake Mills volleyball team upset second-seeded Edgewood 20-25, 25-19, 25-17, 25-19 in a WIAA Division 2 regional final on Saturday night in Madison, claiming the program’s first regional championship since the early 1990’s.
“It was elation,” Lake Mills volleyball coach Courtney Brock said of the moments immediately following the victory when the team rushed the floor to celebrate. “To see the girls work as hard as they have all season and to put in work and dedication to volleyball and each other, it’s exciting to see them reach a goal set at the beginning of the season.
“It was enjoyable to watch them play as hard and as well as they did, seeing the joy and excitement on their faces. This win was earned through hard work.”
The L-Cats, who also earned the program’s first conference title since 1989, rallied from a set down to earn the regional plaque.
“We had struggles connecting and runs where we couldn’t stop them in the opening set,” Brock said. “Our team didn’t let it get to them and came out strong in set two. It was all about maximizing the things we could do and control while minimizing our errors.”
Senior Ava Belling led Lake Mills with 18 kills, hitting .300, and senior Katie Borchert chipped in 12 kills. Seniors Gabby Hack and Sydney Lewellin tallied six kills apiece.
Senior libero Olivia Karlen served three aces and Belling added a pair of aces for the L-Cats, who totaled nine aces on the night. Lewellin had a team-leading 40 assists.
Hack finished with three total blocks while Lewellin and Borchert added two blocks apiece. Karlen produced 15 digs, Borchert had 11, Lewellin nine and Belling eight.
“It was about controlling what we could,” Brock said of keys in the victory. “We knew Edgewood was going to be tough with good hitters and that it would be a tough game going in. Focus was minimizing runs they were going to get and maximizing things we were doing well.
“Sydney put up some up awesome balls off really good digs. Our hitters found slots between their block. We used every ounce of energy we had to put them away. To see Sydney and the defense running all over the floor and the hitters making smart decisions and choices while reacting quickly is what we needed.”
Lake Mills travels to face McFarland in Thursday’s sectional semifinal at 7 p.m. McFarland was determined as the host site for sectionals late this summer. The L-Cats are not fazed by the prospect of playing a true road game in the sectional round.
“Thursday against McFarland is going to be a great game of volleyball,” Brock said. “We know it’s going to be a tough match. We are coming in with that all-in mentality. It’s not uncommon to travel to the highest seed during the postseason. Against Edgewood, our student section was huge. We strive off their energy. We are excited even though we are away to bring that intensity each game.
“We want to come out with a high intensity and high energy level each game and play for each other. We’ll embrace each game and know everything can change quickly. The kids have done that all year. There’s an excitement of ‘you’ve made it this far, how much further can we go?’ Hard work and dedication is there from our group.
“We have focused on the fundamentals and being solid in our game. The importance of fundamentals is always high but will only increase moving forward.”