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Lakeland advances to district final with win over WL Northern

Volleyball   | Jeff Dullack

State Champs! Sports Network

Walled Lake – In two meetings this season, Lakeland has needed four games to get past rival Walled Lake Northern and Wednesday night’s district semifinal wasn’t any different.

The Eagles jumped out to take the first two games of the night and after Northern took game three, Lakeland bounced back to win game four to advance to the district final with the win, 25-17, 28-26, 21-25 and 25-18.

Lakeland now advances to the district final where it will face West Bloomfield, which is coming off of a sweep over Walled Lake Central in the first district semifinal of the night at Northern high school.

Lakeland coach Jean Dukic said that it was key for her team to get off to a fast start in game four to jump ahead of Northern after the Knights pushed Lakeland in game two and won game three.

“It was very important,” she said. “I wanted to finish it in four, I wanted it to be done, I didn’t want it to go to a fifth game because it seemed like in each game, they get more tense and more tense and I’ve got so many seniors, they know they’re going to be done when they lose, so they got a little more tense and the passing got a little bad.”

After Lakeland grabbed a narrow 28-26 win in the second game, Northern came out strong in the third game with its season on the line as the Knights stormed out to an early 6-1 lead after a Riley Johnson kill and would hang onto the lead for the remainder of the game and closed out the third game with a Emily Grathoff kill to seal a 25-21 win.

Northern coach Terry Baughman said he felt his team started out a little tense, but played looser and looser in the following two games, but after winning the third game, Lakeland managed to come up with the key plays to close out the match.

“We started slow and a little tense,” he said. “It’s always hard to play against a team we know we can compete with, but we haven’t beaten. We started a little tense in game one, got a little looser in game two and fought in game three, but in game four, it was almost like we got the win in game three and it was a big sigh of relief and we never had the energy. They did the right things and they had the energy and that’s the difference of the match.”

But Lakeland managed to come out with a fast start of its own, jumping out to an 8-4 lead behind aces from Amanda Lock and Lauren Zeigler.

But Northern battled back to knot the fourth game up at 10-10, before the Eagles went on an 5-1 run, capped off by a Stephanie Leonard kill as the Eagles wouldn’t look back, cruising to a 25-18 win in game three after another block by Leonard sealed the match win.

Dukic said that after Northern came back to tie the game at 10-10, she was calm and wanted her team to stay calm going forward in the match.

“I was calm, we played them on senior night and the girls got a little overly excited or anxious,” she said. “So I just wanted them to stay calm.”

Lakeland was led by 13 kills from Stephanie Leonard, while Madison McGinn and Amanda Leonard chipped in with seven kills and Calleigh Coffin ended the night with 29 digs for Lakeland.