By Pilar Barrio Sanchez

After being 13 months without playing, Lake Land volleyball could not have asked for a better start.

The Lakers beat Kankakee in straight sets, 3-0, on Saturday morning for its second straight victory to begin the pandemic-delayed season. 

“These games prepare us for our region schedule starting next week,” Lake Land coach Ashli Wicker said. “I am trying to get everybody comfortable being on the court.” 

Before this week, the last time Lake Land had played an official game was November 2019, an NJCAA Midwest B District semifinal loss to Indian Hills that concluded a 23-15 season. 

The Lakers graduated a large class that included Mattoon’s Ashlyn MacDonald and libero Ashlyn Clem. This team features 10 incoming freshmen who all faced the uncertainty of not knowing if they were going to have a season.

Video/Pilar Barrio Sanchez

The Lakers started slowly in the opening set against Kankakee on Saturday before pulling ahead for a 25-17 win.  

After Kankakee scored the first point of the second set, Lake Land went on an 8-0 run led by sophomore Caroline Souza to finish the set 25-9 in 15 minutes.  

“Today, I felt great. We are all really excited,” Souza said. “It was a good game and it is good to be able to play other opponents to look at what we need to fix.” 

Souza finished the game with two aces, nine kills, three blocks and nine digs. Sophomore Lara Caldeira recorded two aces, 25 assists and eight digs. 

For the past year, the two Brazilian players have not been able to go home to spend time with their families, which makes this season even more special to them.

Wicker has several priorities for her team.   

“Our expectation is to make it through the season COVID-free,” Wicker said. “It is a sprint and not a marathon and our peak is where we want to be at the end of the season.” 

Lake Land will next play host to Shawnee Community College at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday.