Lake Country Lutheran proves too powerful, takes down Stratford in Division 3 championship match at WIAA State Girls Volleyball Tournament

The Stratford volleyball team holds up its silver runner-up trophy after losing the Division 3 championship match to Lake Country Lutheran on Saturday at the 2018 WIAA State Girls Volleyball Tournament in Green Bay. (Photo by Paul Lecker/MarshfieldAreaSports.com)
Stratford senior Callie Lehman blocks a shot from Lake Country Lutheran during the Division 3 state championship match at the 2018 WIAA State Girls Volleyball Tournament in Green Bay on Saturday. The Tigers lost 3-2. (Photo by Paul Lecker/MarshfieldAreaSports.com)

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Stratford senior Brooke Peterson bumps a shot over to a teammate during the Tigers’ loss to Lake Country Lutheran in the Division 3 championship match at the 2018 WIAA State Girls Volleyball Tournament in Green Bay on Saturday. (Photo by Paul Lecker/MarshfieldAreaSports.com)

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Stratford sophomore hitter Lauryn Nagel tips a shot over Lake Country Lutheran’s Jennifer O’Keefe during the Division 3 state championship match at the 2018 WIAA State Girls Volleyball Tournament at the Resch Center in Green Bay on Saturday. Stratford lost 3-2 as Lake Country Lutheran won its second-straight Division 3 state crown. (Photo by Paul Lecker/MarshfieldAreaSports.com)

By Paul Lecker
For focusonmarshfield.com

GREEN BAY – The Stratford volleyball team finally met its match in defending state champion Lake Country Lutheran.

Stratford, playing in its first state championship match, couldn’t get its offense going in the middle two sets and Lake Country Lutheran was pounding the ball all around the court. It proved too much for the Tigers to overcome and Lake Country Lutheran was able to pull out a 3-2 victory in the Division 3 championship match at the 2018 WIAA State Girls Volleyball Tournament at the Resch Center on Saturday.

The Lightning won 23-25, 25-16, 25-17, 21-25, 15-7, to win their second state title in three trips.

Stratford was making its second-straight trip to state after losing in the semifinals last season. This year the Tigers will take home a silver ball as the runner-up, the first state tournament trophy in the program’s history, and finish the year with a 44-1 record.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this group of girls,” Stratford coach Brooke Kafka said. “It’s been one heck of a ride the past few years and you really can’t hang our heads about anything today. That was one heck of a team that went against us and I’m proud of the way we fought and taking them to the wire.”

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A kill and a service ace from Lauryn Nagel helped Stratford in an 8-1 run that pushed them to a 19-12 lead in the first set.

Lake Country Lutheran chipped away but was not able to overcome the Tigers, who won 25-23.

Despite the victory, a trend was beginning for the Tigers. They were unable to get consistent points from their offense, while also having trouble defending a front row from the Lightning that had multiple weapons.

LCL took control of the second set early, running out to a 6-1 lead with the help of three kills by Jennifer O’Keefe, who had a match-high 22 kills.

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Two kills by senior Mazie Nagel, who had 18 kills to lead Stratford, kept the Tigers within striking distance at 15-10, but the Lightning ripped off runs of 3-0 and 5-0 to put away the game and even the match.

The third set was more of the same for the Lightning. Breanna Pape had three kills and a block kill, and Gaby Garcia added two more kills as Lake Country used an 8-0 run to turn an 11-10 deficit into a 19-11 lead.

Stratford had only five points from its offense in the game – with two coming on block kills and the rest on LCL errors – as it fell 25-17.

“They were big hitters and they were hitting over our blocks, and we were having a tough time defending that,” Kakfa said. “We made some good adjustments and amped up our offense to throw them off a little bit.”

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With the end of the season staring them in their face, the Tigers came out roaring in the fourth set.

The Tigers scored 11 of the first 14 points, two on kills by Lauryn Nagel and two more on aces by Tanaya Schillinger and Brooke Peterson.

Lake Country Lutheran chipped away late, climbing to within three after falling behind by as many as 11, but the Tigers were able to close out the win, evening the match again after a kill by Jadyn Dahlke.

Lake Country Lutheran turned to its big front row again in the fifth and deciding set. Evvie Kaczkowski, one of four Lightning players with double-digit kill totals with 10, had three in the final set. O’Keefe added a pair of kills in a 4-0 run to close out the win, 15-7.

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“We got a lot of power from a lot of different people and I think the difference for us was we had four different players in double digits for kills, and the back row did an amazing job,” Lake Country Lutheran coach Janet Bahr said. “We figured some things out and relaxed a little bit.”

Dahlke had 22 assists, and Peterson had 14 assists and nine digs for Stratford. Mazie Nagel added a team-high 22 digs and junior Libero McKenna Krall had 19 digs in the loss.

In addition to O’Keefe and Kaczkowski, Pape and Garcia also reached double figures in kills with 15 each. Junior setter Alayna Ritter set a Division 3 state tournament match record with 61 assists, the seventh-highest total ever in any division.

“I know we’re very disappointed we didn’t come home with a gold ball because that was our goal,” Peterson said. “But we also made school history today and we’re bringing home a silver ball. I couldn’t be more proud of our team.”

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2018 WIAA State Girls Volleyball Tournament
Nov. 1-3, at Resch Center, Green Bay
Thursday, Nov. 1
Division 1 quarterfinals

Waukesha West (35-10) 3, No. 1 Hartland Arrowhead (45-7) 1 (25-18, 25-21, 21-25, 29-27)
No. 4 Burlington (37-5) 3, Kimberly (33-11) 2 (14-25, 25-12, 26-24, 18-25, 15-9)
No. 2 River Falls (43-2) 3, Greendale (31-17) 0 (25-17, 25-14, 25-19)
No. 3 Oconomowoc (30-7) 3, Sun Prairie (40-9) 1 (25-16, 25-22, 20-25, 25-16)

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Friday, Nov. 2
Division 4 semifinals

Burlington Catholic Central (38-7) 3, Wausau Newman Catholic (31-13) 0 (25-17, 25-21, 26-24)
Clayton (29-3) 3, River Ridge (24-1) 0 (26-24, 26-24, 25-20)
Division 3 semifinals
Stratford (44-0) 3, Living Word Lutheran (29-7) 1 (25-23, 20-25, 25-11, 25-16)
Lake Country Lutheran (37-11) 3, Grantsburg (31-6) 0 (25-16, 25-18, 25-16)
Division 2 semifinals
Kettle Moraine Lutheran (31-10) 3, Little Chute (38-2) 1 (25-21, 22-25, 25-22, 28-26)
East Troy (30-8) 3, Mosinee (37-7) 0 (25-21, 25-13, 26-24)
Division 1 semifinals
Burlington (38-5) 3, Waukesha West (35-11) 0 (25-17, 25-13, 29-27)
Oconomowoc (31-7) 3, River Falls (43-3) 2 (17-25, 23-25, 32-30, 25-18, 15-8)

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Saturday, Nov. 3
Championship matches

Division 4: Burlington Catholic Central (39-7) 3, Clayton (29-4) 0 (25-17, 28-26, 25-22)
Division 3: Lake Country Lutheran (38-11) 3, Stratford (44-1) 2 (23-25, 25-16, 25-17, 21-25, 15-7)
Division 2: East Troy (30-8) vs. Kettle Moraine Lutheran (31-10), 2 p.m.
Division 1: Burlington (38-5) vs. Oconomowoc (31-7), 4:30 p.m.

Paul Lecker is publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com and a contributor to focusonmarshfield.com.