Lakeview put its best foot forward Tuesday against the top team in its class, but while the Lady Vikes were the first team to score 20 or more points in multiple sets against St. Paul, it still wasn't enough.
The No. 1 team in Class C-1, according to the Lincoln Journal Star, remained unbeaten and still hasn't lost a set this season, taking a matchup with Lakeview 25-18, 25-21, 25-21.
Not only have the Wildcats been perfect in 21 matches, but they also have yet to drop a set. St. Paul entered Tuesday night 46-0 in sets and had only allowed opponents to score 20 or more points in a set six times.
Lakeview did it twice, and had late leads, but never crossed the finish line.
"We battled. As I told the team after, it was literally two points in the second set and two points in the third set that go a different way and we have a different outcome," coach K.C. Belitz said. "It's literally two points.
"That's the good news and the bad news. We're right there with the number one team in the state. The bad news is, we're right there with the number one team in the state, and we didn't get it."
The first set was played within two or three points until St. Paul began to pull away at 12-12. The visitors won six of eight and led 18-14, Lakeview drew to within 18-16 on a Lilly Rowe kill and Becca Valdez kill but St. Paul then won four of the next five and forced a Lady Vikes timeout.
It did little to stem the tide. They also dropped the final three of four rallies.
Lakeview trailed in the second set 18-16 then won four of five on three St. Paul hitting errors and a serving error. But leading 20-19, the Lady Vikes only managed one more point on a Lilly Rowe kill. They suffered through three of their own attack errors and two serving errors before an Olivia Poppert kill finished it for the Wildcats.
It was 18-18 in the third, Lakeview took a lead on a net violation but St. Paul answered back with three straight Jenna Jakubowski kills. Mallori Kucera ended the run with a block but the Wildcats put together three straight again, Maddi Vogt kept the Lady Vikes alive with her seventh kill of the night but Jakubowski finished it on one last swing.
Rowe led Lakeview with nine kills, Reese Janssen had 10 set assists and Becca Valdez had 18 digs.
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The loss dropped Lakeview to 16-5 and extended a losing skid that stretched back to Saturday at the Columbus Classic. The Lady Vikes hadn't lost consecutive matches until falling in Saturday's semifinals then losing the third-place match to Scotus.
Tuesday also closed a particularly tough 11 days in which Lakeview's schedule included Class B No. 1 Waverly, C-1 No. 6 Scotus twice, Class A Columbus High, C-1 No. 7 Norfolk Catholic and St. Paul.
Since the Aurora Invitational on Sept. 28 in which the Lady Vikes took down Aurora and Kearney Catholic but lost to Waverly, Lakeview has gone a respectable 4-4.
But Belitz and his group are looking for more than just respect.
"We will come dedicated starting tomorrow in practice to get two points better so we are two points better the next time because I hope we see them in the sub-district final," Belitz said. "That's our goal. We've got to find a way to be two points better."
St. Paul, Lakeview and Scotus are all assigned to the same sub-district, along with Central City and Boone Central. The way its shaping up, Central City and Boone Central will play for the right to play St. Paul leaving Lakeview and Scotus head-to-head for a fourth time.
The Wildcats, Lady Vikes and Shamrocks are all within the top nine of the wildcard points standings as of late Tuesday night, giving sub-district C1-8 an opportunity to move three teams on to the district round though Lakeview is in a somewhat precarious position.
If results hold based on the school currently leading the power points in each sub-district, Scotus and Lakeview would be the first two wild card teams that earn a spot to the district tournament.
Three sub-districts, C1-1, C1-2 and C1-3 have top teams that are currently below 20th in the standings. Two other subs (C1-7 and C1-12) also have three teams inside the top 16.
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.