Lakeland dominates West Bloomfield, heads to regionals
Walled Lake – The White Lake Lakeland volleyball team made it back-to-back district titles on Thursday.
A year after falling to state semifinalist Northville in a regional final, the Eagles found themselves squaring off against West Bloomfield for the first time this season at Walled Lake Northern in a Class A district final. Behind an impressive net presence, Lakeland secured a three-set sweep of the Lakers, winning 25-16, 25-20 and 25-20.
Lakeland will move on to a regional semifinal next Tuesday at West Bloomfield, where it will face the winner of the Milford-Hartland district final that will be decided on Friday. Hartland beat Lakeland twice this season.
“We’ve got some bigger plans beyond the district championship, but it does feel good to get the win and get a district championship two years in a row,” Lakeland coach Jean Dukic said. “I’m especially happy for my nine seniors.”
Having already defeated W.L. Northern, Walled Lake Central and Walled Western during the Kensington Lakes Activities Association season, Lakeland, an honorable mention team in the latest Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association poll, entered the week as the district favorite.
“It was tough to keep the girls mentally strong and to not think that they had it made already,” Dukic said. “It can be tough to keep them focused, especially considering that we had already beaten all of the teams in the districts with the exception of West Bloomfield.”
The difference for Lakeland came from the play at the net by a trio of seniors. Amanda Lock Gabrielle Alvira and Stephanie Leonard severely limited West Bloomfield’s attack and forced the Lakers adjust their approach. Lock finished with a team-high eight kills and seven blocks, while Leonard tallied six blocks.
“Amanda was the key tonight,” Dukic said. “She pretty much shut down all of their hitters.”
After leading by as many as 12 points in their nine-point opening set win, the Eagles got off to a slow start in the second set, allowing the Lakers to open with a 5-1 advantage.
“It’s always important to start off well,” Dukic said. “I was a little disappointed that we didn’t start off well in the second game, but we were at least always steady, which is a good thing.”
Lakeland rallied, though, behind Lock to a take 6-5 lead and rallied again late, with Lock, Alvira and Leonard stonewalling the West Bloomfield attack. Trailing 17-15, the Eagles won three consecutive points to retake the lead for good and finished by taking 10 of the final 13 points in the 25-20 win.
“I think we were a little intimated at first. We knew that Lakeland is an outstanding team and it was really a privilege to be on the same court as them,” West Bloomfield coach Dana Grey said. “We knew that we were the underdog coming in, which was nice because it took the pressure off of us. They’re fabulous blockers, though, and that caused us to have to change up our game as well.”
The third set saw Lakeland take the lead on the opening point, with West Bloomfield playing behind nearly the entire set. After tying the set on the second point, the Lakers got as close as one point on five occasions, with their last rally coming when trialing 17-16.
For West Bloomfield, Shannon Heald led the Laker attack with eight kills, while Gabi Allread chipped in with five kills and eight digs. Alex McDonough also posted four kills and three blocks and Lindsey DuFresne dished out 17 assists. Lyndsay Crane led the back court with nine digs. ?