Kristy Burford

Lake Land's Kristy Burford (3) attempts to hit a kill attempt past Southwestern Illinois College's block during Wednesday's match at Laker Fieldhouse.

MIKE ESTELL, For the JG-TC

MATTOON — Southwestern Illinois College provided another challenge for the Lake Land volleyball team that was still missing a couple of key players.

Still, Lake Land, which came in with a 6-15 record and was 2-2 in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference, stuck with Southwestern, which was 9-5 overall and 4-1 in the GRAC, through three sets.

However, the Huskies pulled away late in each set and came away with a 25-20, 25-18, 25-18 victory.

“(Southwestern) is a great defensive team the past couple of years and are continuing to become that defensive team that you really have to change up your offense in order to executive against them,” Lake Land coach Ashli Robison said. “Unfortunately on our end, we were missing a big player on the defensive end. Those things all incorporated into one. We just can’t come out and swing and tip, we have to do everything differently. It’s something we need to keep working.”

The Lady Lakers struggled with serve-receive at the wrong times, too. Not only would Southwestern get one ace, a second one followed to help the Blue Storm go on a small run and separate themselves from Lake Land.

“One of our biggest pitfalls is snowballing off errors,” Robison said. “It’s something we are still working on and it’s something every team faces, just recovering from that error. If you don’t, all of a sudden it’s four points that you racked up.”

What will help the Lady Lakers the most is having a full squad. Mattoon graduate Emily Watson has missed the whole season so far but was just cleared to play. Robison plans to use the sophomore setter this weekend at the Illinois Valley tournament. Libero Jannah Mullen has missed time with an injury and Robinson is hoping to have the freshman back next week.

Robison said she’s seen improvement out of her squad the past couple of weeks and with those two back, it should only help the process.

“We are at the point where we are taking three steps forward and two steps back, just a little at a time,” Robison said. “Unfortunately we can’t be perfect all of the time and we are still growing. But we have been growing since the beginning of the season.”

In the first set, Lake Land fell behind 9-3 before chipping away at Southwestern’s lead. Lake Land was down 14-11 later in the first set and then cut it to 19-17.

But the Blue Storm started to pull away late in the set and were up 24-18. Lake Land scored the next two points before Southwestern got the set point for a 25-20 win.

Lake Land grabbed an early 3-1 lead in the second set. Southwestern quickly tied the set at 3-3 and later took a 7-5 lead. Lake Land tie the set at 7-7 before a 3-0 run gave the Blue Storm a 10-7 advantage. The Lady Lakers closed to within 10-9 when another 3-0 run gave the Blue Storm a big enough cushion in the set.

Lake Land didn’t get any closer than three points in the set. The Lady Lakers were down 20-16 when the Blue Storm closed the second set on a 5-2 run for the 25-18 win.

The Lady Lakers took an early 4-1 lead in the fourth set and were up 7-4 when the Blue Storm went on a 4-0 run to take an 8-7 lead. Lake Land came back with a 3-0 run to retake the lead at 10-8.

Southwestern came back with a 7-0 run to take the lead for good at 15-10. Lake Land was within three at 21-18 when Southwestern closed the set on a 4-0 run for the 25-18 victory and the sweep.

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