MATTOON — After a Ryann Ambrose kill extended the Lake Land lead to its largest mark at 19-14 in the third set, it looked as if the Lakers had something cooking.
But it just wasn’t meant to be.
Kaskaskia rattled off three kills and used a double hit from Lake Land to tie the match at 19 and again at 20 before ending the game — and the Lakers’ season — with a 5-1 run, capping a three-set sweep of Lake Land 25-18, 25-10, 25-21, who ended the season 15-24 (4-6 GRAC).
“Our biggest enemy came back and got us tonight,” Lakers head coach Ashli Robison stated. “We just came out flat. We just couldn’t find our rhythm tonight, and Kaskaskia struck a match and got out to a hot start.”
The hottest start the Blue Angels raced out to was a 10-1 mark in the second set — the Lakers scored after Kaskaskia downed a kill and took advantage of a Lake Land hitting error — but it was the eighth Blue Angels point that summarized the night for Lake Land.
The Lakers got in their offense and sent a strong hit over the net that caromed off the shoulder of a Blue Angels player.
The only problem was it bounced up and perfectly in line toward another Kaskaskia player, who slammed the ball over the net right where a hole was in the Laker defense.
“I knew we had to fix something in the second set,” Robison said. “We tried to switch Ryann back to the outside, but we just couldn’t generate any offense.”
In spite of the blowout in the second set, there were several different parts of the game where the Lakers made play competitive.
In the first set, Lake Land cut a 17-12 deficit to 17-15, thanks to two kills from Ambrose and an error from Kaskaskia, but the Blue Angels ended the first set on an 8-3 run to win 25-18.
In the third set, the Lakers came out on a 6-3 run thanks to kills from Ambrose and Alexandra Beckers, and in doing so forced Kaskaskia’s first timeout of the set.
After the break, the Blue Angels came back to tie the set, but Lake Land capitalized on two hitting errors from Kaskaskia and later extended the lead to 13-9 after one of Alexis Rankin’s two blocks on the night.
The two teams went back-and-forth the rest of the set — the largest lead was Lake Land’s at 19-15 — but Kaskaskia came back to tie the game at 19, 20 and 21. The Blue Angels scored the final four points of the match, ending the Lakers’ season.
“Our passing was improved in the third set,” Robison said. “We had a couple of big plays go our way defensively in the third set … We will definitely build on this game moving forward to next season.”
The Lakers are to return five of their six starters next season and look to fill in holes at middle and outside hitter along with setter and on the defensive side.
Per coach Robison, Lake Land has already secured a commitment from Mattoon outside hitter Ashlyn McDonald and has hopes for several more commitments in the coming months.