Walled Lake Northern wins Battle of Bogie Lake Road again, beating Lakeland for third time in 12 days in volleyball district opener
WHITE LAKE — As is applicable for the Battle of Bogie Lake, between Walled Lake Northern and White Lake Lakeland — two schools separated by just two and a half miles of winding Bogie Lake Road — the combatants in Tuesday’s Division 1 volleyball district opener were veeeeeeeeeery familiar with each other.
Maybe moreso than most cases in this rivalry.
“It’s weird — we’ve played these guys, in the last week-and-a-half, we’ve played them three times,” said first-year Lakeland coach Brian Theut. “So we have all the film on these guys, all that stuff, and it’s recent in the kids’ memories.”
With the two teams having faced off three times in 12 days, there were no secrets in Tuesday’s match.
The Knights finished tied for second place in the Lakes Valley Conference regular-season standings, thanks to a 25-12, 25-17, 14-25, 25-14 win over Lakeland on the road on Oct. 18. Two days later, they met again in the LVC tournament, where Northern took second behind champion South Lyon.
That recent familiarity paid off for the Knights (28-13), who won 25-20, 25-20, 25-18 on Tuesday— despite not playing up to their coach’s expectations — to advance to Thursday’s district semifinals, where they’ll take on Walled Lake Central.
“I feel we were really slow at the start. We did not come out with the same intensity, but you gotta give Lakeland credit. They came out a lot harder. This is the third time we’ve played them, and it’s hard to beat a team three times,” Northern coach Terry Baughman said. “We were very fortunate that they made some hitting errors, some service errors that really helped us. If they were on, if their No. 9 hitter (Lizzie Virgin) was on, we’d have been in trouble. She’s got an arm, she’s got a boom, and I know she could’ve really hurt us.”
The Eagles got Virgin free for a team-high 15 kills, but just couldn’t sustain enough offense to to much more than push the Knights.
“Our plan today was just to go out and swing high, swing high. They (the Knights) blocked really well. … I knew it was going to be a battle, and we were just trying to find a way to get through. Our defense was on top. We couldn’t have asked for anything better. Our offense was just a tad behind. Just that one lull in a match like this,” Theut said.
“The things that we had no control over — the big thing for us was we just couldn’t get a break. If I had my lesson plan and my goal plan for how I wanted the match to lay out, it was ideally what I wanted. We felt like we had a better option on the right side, so we really pummeled it, really pushed it through the right side. We’ve got our horse, Lizzie Virgin, on the outside, so the big thing is getting her going, but the tough thing is they block really, really well.
“We’re a middle-to-the-pin style, and they just get us in that uncomfortable situation where we can’t run our middles. That’s kind of the bread and butter of our team. We’ve really had to kind of change in the last two, three weeks.”
Senior middle Sydney Casey had seven kills and three blocks, while Virgin added two blocks, two aces. Senior libero Morgan Graham had 23 digs and three aces.
But it wasn’t enough against a Northern team that blocked a lot of what the Eagles hit, when they were in-system and constantly kept them out of system with aggressive serving.
“We served well. We know we have to serve well, serve aggressive. Once we got in their heads a little bit — we practice a lot of placement serves — we knew, based on film from previous matches, that we just had to serve tough,” Baughman said. “I really, honestly think that by keeping the other team out of system, that was beneficial to us.”
Outside hitter Olivia Miller had 10 kills and seven digs to lead Northern, while middle Delia Bechmann had seven kills. Libera Paige Karbowski had 24 digs, and middle Amelia Rinehart had four blocks.
The Knights now face Central, the team with which they tied for second in the conference standings, and a team they’re also very, very familiar with.
“We see them a lot. Great sportsmanship, great match. We don’t like each other much, because we’re a mile down the road,” Baughman said of Central, admitting much the same could be said for Lakeland, “but it’s always a fun match.”
Theut’s senior-led charges finish their first season under his tutelage.
“I’m proud of my girls. First year here, and it’s a completely new system, completely new this, completely new that. I couldn’t have asked my team more. It’s buying into a new coach.
The big thing for us is that it’s a learning process. We played hard, the five seniors that we rode all year,” Theut said. “To give Northern a run … realistically, the battle is going to be on Thursday.”