By Mike Monahan

Lake Land once again swept past an opponent in straight sets Thursday night. 

The Lakers defeated Shawnee College 25-17, 25-12, 25-15 in their Great Rivers Athletic Conference and Region 24 opener at Laker Fieldhouse. 

That’s a stretch of nine straight winning sets to begin the season 3-0 overall.

“We are off to a good start in the conference and region,” said Lake Land coach Ashli Wicker, in her sixth year. “It wasn’t the prettiest thing, but we got the win and that is all that matters.”

Lake Land trailed only once the entire match – and that was when Shawnee scored the first two points of the opening set, including a tip by Nakayla Burrrell. 

Malorie Craig served two points to break the third and final tie of the night, including the last one on an ace down the line – one of six aces the Lady Lakers served in the first set. 

Shawnee stayed within striking distance after trailing 11-7 as Madison Watret served two points, including an ace. The Saints kept within three and five points and trailed just 20-17 after two serves by Carli Juncker. But Lake Land put the set away when Watret served the last four points

“We were not looking at us at all,” said Wicker. “I told them we are an offensive force and we are kind of just playing shy. I was like, ‘Let’s have some fun and regroup.’ And they figured it out, I think.”

Carolina Souza, a six-foot sophomore middle hitter from Brazil sparked the Lady Lakers in the second set by starting with a kill. She then served eight unanswered points, including an ace and a kill by Erica Michaels and Kelsi Geltz for a 9-0 advantage. Shawnee didn’t get closer than eight the rest of the set. Lake Land found holes on the left side as they earned several kills by hitting it in that area. Watret served the final two points for the 13-point win. 

Lara Calderia (above) started the final set off strong with four points on the way to a 7-1 lead. 

Shawnee (0-2) then closed to 18-14 before Lake Land scored four points, including a kill by Alondra Aldarondo Perez, for a 22-14 advantage. It was 22-15 when a service error game Lake Land the serve and Morgan Parsons had a kill off a serve by Nickeal Clark for the victory. 

“These first matches we are just trying to get what lineup is working best for us,” said Wicker. “It is a good time to get everyone playing time at the same time, too. We have had to overcome adversity.”

The starters were Souza, Parsons, Stewardson-Strasburg grade Mackinzee Reynolds, who played for WSS (sports co-op of Windsor and Stewardson-Strasburg), Jones, Calderia and Michaels. 

“With COVID-19, we are trying to play more than one match in one day and so we are doing tri-matches for the weekend,” said Wicker. 

Lake Land next plays at 2 p.m. Saturday against Vincennes, a team that is 3-3 has beaten Shawnee 25-14, 25-6, 25-14. The game is a Region 24 contest. Lake Land also plays host to John Wood, 2-2, at 6 p.m. 

“We are still working through it as we have 10 freshmen and so we are just trying to mature really fast,” said Wicker. “I told them: ‘Remember, it is a sprint not a marathon so keep chucking away.’”

If Lake Land wins both matches Saturday, it would mark the program’s best start since the 2009 season under Jessica Hills.