LESTER PRAIRIE – The Lester Prairie volleyball team is a program learning to win. Earlier in the year, the Bulldogs were learning to get off to quick starts. Against North Lakes Academy, Lester Prairie was looking to finish strong.
A dominant win in set one wouldn’t hold up as the Bulldogs let the Huskies hang around. Despite winning set two, Lester Prairie allowed North Lakes Academy to stay alive with a win in set three. After the hiccup in the third set, the Bulldogs got back to their style of play, capping off a 3-1 (25-10, 26-24, 24-26, 25-15) win over the Huskies at home Oct. 27.
“That’s what we work on all the time,” Bulldogs coach Mart Otto said. “I wish there was a magic button to fix that. We’re working on it. They know that’s what they need to do. It’s a matter of making those new habits.”
The Bulldogs came out firing in set one thanks to the serving of Chloe Engelke. The sophomore racked up five aces in the first set alone to give the Bulldogs a 25-10 win.
“She’s got a dang good serve when she’s on,” Otto said. “Her serve is a mean serve. She does a really good job.”
The Bulldogs looked like they would cruise to a win in set two after holding leads of 7-2 lead and 20-13, but the Huskies took advantage of mistakes by Lester Prairie. Miscommunication and mental mistakes allowed the Huskies to make a 7-0 run to tie the set at 24. Following the big run, a service error by the Huskies and a kill from Brooke Albers gave Lester Prairie a 2-0 lead despite the sloppy finish.
The Bulldogs wouldn’t get away with their sloppy play in set three as the Huskies fought to stay alive. Despite holding a 15-7 lead, North Lakes used an 8-0 run to take their first lead of the match at 18-17. The Huskies would on hold down the stretch, winning set three 26-24.
“You can kind of see that we have those serve/receive woes, we dig a hole,” Otto said. “It’s just a matter of them having that inner confidence that they can do it.”
After a letdown in set three, Lester Prairie bounced back in the fourth set. Leading 11-7, the Bulldogs used an 8-0 run to put the Huskies away for good this time as Marissa Radtke collected three kills in that run.
Radtke, a player returning to the program after not playing last season, has given Lester Prairie a big boost this season with her athleticism and senior leadership.
“She’s just naturally athletic,” Otto said about Radtke. “We’ve been struggling with keeping that middle position upfront. That’s a tough spot. She’s filled that well. I don’t think that’s ever a spot she thought she would be put in, but she’s doing a good job.”
With the win, Lester Prairie improved to 3-2 overall on the season. While they’ve won three games already, Otto knows there’s more work to do and it starts with improving their communication on the floor.
“That’s something we’ve been working on even going to back to last year,” Otto said. “They just have to have it where it’s a new habit for them to be talking. They get a little quiet on the court at times. It’s something that we continue to work on.”
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