McKenzie Wadkins - Courtney Cisek - Jodie Harris

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Lady Lakers dig up a win to go GRAC Magic Number 1

Friday, October 21, 2016

BELLEVILLE--JAY HARRINGTON COURT--The Lake Land College Lady Lakers went digging for a win Wednesday night on Jay Harrington Court in Belleville and found a W good to reduce their magic number to one in the hunt for a Great Rivers Athletic Conference title.

Lady Lakers pre-match warmups at Jay Harrington Court.
A 3-1 victory over the Lady Blue Storm of Southwestern Illinois College avenged a mid-September home court loss for the Lady Lakers in a five-set heartbreaker.

Lake Land took the first two sets, 25-16 and 25-23, respectively, before dropping the third set, 22-25. A 25-21 set four win gave Lake Land the match.

The Wednesday night win guaranteed Lake Land at least a share of first place in the GRAC, raising their conference record to 7-2 while SWIC fell to 6-3. But the match wasn't the only component to the GRAC race. John A. Logan College's Lady Volunteers, the third part of a three-way tie for the conference lead, lost in straight sets on their home court to the Kaskaskia College Blue Angels, giving both those teams 6-3 conference records and creating a three-way tie for second along with SWIC.

With one conference match remaining, Lake Land's magic number is down to one, meaning a Lake Land win next Wednesday over the Lady Warriors of Rend Lake College at Waugh Gymnasium gives the Lady Lakers sole possession of first place in the GRAC, translating into a GRAC title.

A conference championship wasn't the only item at stake Wednesday night. There was the importance of post-season seeding in the NJCAA Region 24 Division I Volleyball Championships to fret over. Worse, Lake Land's Wednesday night outcome had no bearing on the seeding. Only games between the D1 teams (Lake Land College, John A. Logan College, and Kaskaskia College) had an impact. So while Lake Land was indeed working toward a GRAC title on Jay Harrington Court, a match taking place at Brewer Gymnasium between host Logan and visiting Kaskaskia was playing out. The outcome was a straight sets win for the Blue Angels, giving Lake Land the #1 seed in the aforementioned Region 24 Championships, commonly referred to as the "Regionals."

The scenario sets up an exciting week, with Lake Land's final conference match at Waugh, essentially for the GRAC title, and an Oct. 29 Regional Championship versus the winner of an Oct. 28 semi-final between Logan and Kaskaskia. The winner of the Regionals goes on to the Districts, hosted by the Region 16 winner in Missouri (either Jefferson College or Mineral Area College). Officially, the District playoff is known as NJCAA District K Volleyball Championship. (The winner of District K goes on to the National Finals in Casper, Wyoming.)

In the Wednesday win over SWIC, Lake Land may as well have skipped onto Jay Harrington Court singing, "A digging we will go," with no less than five Lady Lakers in digging double-figures.

Sophomore, Libero, Rachel Schultz (Stewardson, St. Anthony High School) led the way with 28 digs. Schultz, who in recent weeks has climbed the NJCAA national rankings from Top-20 in digs and digs per set to Top 10 at 7th and 9th, respectively, currently notched up 6th in digs and 8th in digs per set.

Schultz was joined in double-digs by sophomore, outside hitter, Nathayla de Souza (Sao Paulo, Brazil), with 20. Sophomore, defensive specialist, Rachel Mullen (St. Joseph, St. Joseph-Ogden High School) and freshman, setter, Emily Watson (Mattoon, Mattoon High School) each chipped in with 19, with an additional dozen digs from sophomore, setter, Maria Brasel (Kinmundy, South Central High School).

Digging wasn't the only widely shared aspect of the match. Five Lady Lakers shared in double-figure scoring as well. Brasel, who has taken on a variety of roles as a sophomore, led the attack with 20.5 points, her kill percentage for the match at .385. De Souza added 18.0 points. Freshmen, middle blocker, Kelcie Darnell (Shelbyville, Shelbyville High School) and right-side hitter, Claudia Watson (Shelbyville, Shelbyville High School) each chipped in with 11.5 points. Another 11.0 points were claimed by freshman, middle blocker, Ryann Ambrose (Shelbyville, Shelbyville High School).

Lake Land setters, Brasel and E. Watson, tallied 18 and 16 assists, respectively.

Brasel aced a half-dozen serves, raising her season total to 44 and her national ranking in the same category to 15th.

The Lady Lakers next match is against the Lady Warriors of Rend Lake College, Wednesday night at Waugh Gymnasium in Ina, Ill. First serve is slated for 6:30 p.m. CDT. The match will air on Lakerball Radio, with broadcast information to post about an hour prior to match time.

 
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