Anything can happen once the state tournament rolls around.
Waupaca was seeded ninth in its Division 2 sectional bracket and had to head north to Minocqua Oct. 16 to face No. 8 Lakeland.
Any thought of returning home with a win didn’t last long, however, as the Thunderbirds took care of the Comets in three games, 25-16, 25-23, 25-19.
The Thunderbirds didn’t get to enjoy the win very long, however, as they fell in three games two days later to top-seeded Tomahawk.
“Waupaca came in rated very close to us, but we knew nothing about them,” Lakeland coach Bob Schenk said. “We had no comparable opponents, so we had to make adjustments during the match. I knew they had some big girls and they had been suffering some injuries, but we went into the game very much in the dark.”
The lack of scouting seemed to matter little once the game got going and both teams appeared evenly matched.
In the end, Lakeland used scoring runs late in each of the games to come away with the win.
Even though Lakeland got the sweep, the match was anything but a blowout.
“They were very scrappy and did not want to let the ball hit the floor,” Schenk said. “I knew we had to serve tough and hit the ball to avoid the upset.”
Lakeland jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the first game, but the Comets eventually tied the game at 9-9. From there, the score teetered back and forth with neither team able to grab the momentum, but a 10-3 run gave Lakeland the edge.
It was Waupaca’s turn to get out to the early lead in the second game, as the Comets took a 3-2 lead on an ace serve. However, Lakeland slowly made its way back and took command midway through the game.
Abby Scharbarth rattled off a string of three straight points to put Lakeland up 6-3 in the third game and force a Waupaca timeout.
The Comets came back to the tie the game at 11-11 and eventually took a 16-14 lead.
Schenk took a timeout to talk it over and the break proved effective for Lakeland, as the Thunderbirds came back after the pause to tie the game at 18-18.
From there, Lakeland went on a 7-1 run to end the game, including a Scharbarth ace for the final point.
• Bryan Rose is the sports editor of The Lakeland Times in Minocqua.
• The Thursday, Oct. 18, edition of the County Post West incorrectly reported that the Waupaca volleyball team lost their Eastern Valley Conference match to Freedom Oct. 11. The Comets actually defeated the Irish in five games. Waupaca won the first game, lost the next two and came back to win the fourth and fifth games. The County Post West regrets the error.