Lakeview faced the challenge it expected Thursday night at 5-4 Battle Creek. That and its own mistakes made for an interesting, herky-jerky three-set sweep over the Braves.
The No. 1 Lady Vikes had three players with double digit digs but also 22 attack errors. That led to a season-high 49 kills but also a hitting percentage of just .201.
Lakeview won the first 25-19, took the second set 25-20 then had to work overtime for a 27-25 win in the third.
The Lady Vikes eventually pulled away in the first and second but faced a 23-22 deficit in the third and took a timeout. Lakeview came out and responded with a kill by Lilly Rowe. Mallori Kucera finished it off moments later with a slam on an overpass.
"We played OK but not great, and that's going to create some challenges playing a team that's as good defensively as Battle Creek is," coach K.C. Belitz said. "They were as good on floor defense as we saw on film, and I think they frustrated some of our hitters into making some errors."
Lilly Rowe led with 15 kills and hit .290, Katee Korte added 13 with a .257 percentage and Maddi Vogt put up 11 at a .147 clip. Forty-nine kills was the most in a match by three but 22 attack errors was the most by double.
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Adjusting to a quality defense was evident early on when Lakeview produced 13 kills to seven errors in the first set - it's lowest production of the match. The Lady Vikes came around in the second and third with 20 and then 16 - a .216 percentage then .217.
Winning rallies 2-1 or 3-2 eventually built Lakeview leads to five or six by late in the first and second set. That wasn't the case in the third when Battle Creek was on the brink of forcing a fourth.
Rowe's kill that tied it up was followed by one from Josie Bentz. Korte looked like she was about to put the match away 25-23 when her shot was dug and traveled over the net and past the Lakeview defense where it fell near the back line. The two sides traded errors before another kill from Rowe then Kucera's slam on the overpass.
"I would not have wanted to go four with them at home in their homecoming week and all that. There were a lot of people in the gym and a lot of energy," Belitz said. "It might have gotten pretty hard for us if we had gone four."
Fifteen kills for Rowe is a positive sign for Lakeview's top offensive threat. Following ACL surgery nine months ago, Rowe has had somewhat of a slow start to the year. She started to come back around to her old form on Saturday at the Boone Central Invite. Thursday was more proof that she might be back for good.
"You could tell from the sound when she hits the ball. Saturday that really struck me," Belitz said. "I think she's pretty close to 100% again, but even though she led us, she had plenty of errors that were unforced. It was just that kind of night for everybody."
The Lady Vikes are 10-0 and have the weekend off. They'll be back on the court Tuesday hosting a triangular against Nebraska Christian and Boone Central.
"The upside is, good teams figure out how to win when they're not at their best, because that's going to happen from time to time," Belitz said. "This was a good team and we found a way."
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.