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Lakewood moving on up
After a disappointing loss to Granite Falls on Oct. 16 the Lakewood Cougars could have folded the tents and gone home for the winter. Instead theyve been playing their best volleyball of the season and with the return of a healthy Amanda Gregory, will be looking to make a mark in the playoffs.
Their Oct. 23 match against Coupeville was a walk-over, as the Cougars quickly put away any doubts of their superiority. The final score of 25-17, 25-16, 25-19 showed how consistently Lakewood played.
After a slow start to the match, Juliet Dvorak got the Cougars on track with a fine tip kill to make the score in game one 8-12. Liliya Kibitskaya smoked a cross-court kill from the left side of the court to make it 9-12 and Tawnya Hulslander served two points for the Cougars to pull them within 11-12. After an exchange of points, a pair of Kibitskaya aces made it 14-13 in favor of the Cougars. Then Gregory took over. A monster kill from the right side pushed Lakewoods edge to 19-15 and Gregory struck again moments later to make it 20-17. Hulslander tipped a ball down for a 22-17 edge and then smacked a midcourt kill to lead 24-17. A sneaky tip kill from Kibitskaya caught the Coupeville defense napping and ended the game in favor of the Cougars.
In the second set Hulslander propelled the Cougars to a 1-0 edge with a quick ace. Kibitskaya again fooled the Coupeville blockers with a tip kill to lead 2-1. Gregory continued to pound away from the outside, sending spiked arrows downward at the helpless Coupeville back row. Gregorys blast from the left outside put Lakewood up 4-3 early on. Kibitskaya unloaded another well-aimed line kill to push the score to 10-8 and Lakewood continued to forge ahead. A cross-court kill from Gregory made it 19-12. Hulslander then made an impressive play at the net for the Cougs. She made a solo block on a Coupeville kill attempt, and as Coupeville scrambled to keep the ball from hitting the ground Hulslander pounced on a weakly hit set near the net. She tipped the ball back down before Coupeville could recover to give Lakewood a 21-12 advantage. Lakewood held on to win easily 25-16.
The Cougars came out flat in the third set and saw Coupeville jump ahead 3-0. Aly Stewart tried to wake Lakewood up by hitting a laser kill in the center of the court to make it 1-3 but Coupeville extended their advantage. As the score mounted in Coupevilles favor Coach Monica Rooney did not panic. Rooney waited for her team to figure out what they needed to do.
It wasnt until a Kibitskaya push kill made the score 2-8 that Lakewood began to stem the bleeding. Dvorak served three straight aces to make the game score close at 4-8. When Gregory hit a big-time kill to close the gap to 8-11 it was clear that Cougars had found their groove. The points kept mounting for Lakewood and they went back in front 16-15 on a Kibitskaya ace. Kibitskaya served another ace and later hit a back row kill to push the edge to 24-17. Hulslander closed the game with a massive kill on a quick set from Peyton Mizell.
For Lakewood, it was another demonstration of how far theyve come this season.
Were playing really aggressive, said Dvorak after the match. If we keep playing this way we will do well in the playoffs.
Setter Peyton Mizell, who set up her big hitters all evening, felt similarly. The underrated Mizell knew big matches were upcoming, but felt good about the teams progress.
Were on the way up, she said. Weve been getting better and better.
Making things easier on Mizell has been the return of a fit Amanda Gregory. Gregory tweaked her ankle and missed three games, playing sparingly in others. Her presence was missed and having her back in the offense has made a big difference for the Cougars.
Ive got no pain in the ankle, said Gregory. Im excited that we are on the upswing. At the beginning of the year we didnt play up to our potential but now we are. The rest of the way should be all good.
Coach Monica Rooney felt good about the win but was still hungry for more.
We didnt play our best game but we got a win, said Rooney. Its good to have Amanda Gregory back confident and playing well. But Im not satisfied yet. We have more work to do to prepare for the post-season and we will all need to step up. We want to be playing our best at the end of the season and that means continuing to improve.