HOLCOMBE — The Cornell volleyball team waited 40 years between conference championships.
The Chiefs didn’t have to wait another 40 for their next championship as the team has stayed unbeaten in East Lakeland Conference action, winning for the 11th time in as many league matchups Tuesday with a straight set win over Lake Holcombe (25-19, 25-15, 25-21).
Jayda Turchen had a team-high 11 kills and 14 digs for the Chiefs, while Michayla Turchen added six kills and four aces. Ava Story had six kills and Ella Hartzell led Lake Holcombe with 15 digs.
Lake Holcombe hung tough with the Chiefs in each of the three sets before Cornell mounted runs to pull away for the sweep.
“This match definitely made me see how they can push through mentally because Holcombe played us really tough and were with us point for point until all the matches we were close until about 15-15, 15-14 and we were able to push past that and finish the match, which is what we’re going to need to do mentally is stay tough and in it mentally to make a run,” Cornell coach Amy Lorenzen said.
Cornell (18-8, 11-0) improved to 11-0 in league competition after a unbeaten conference championship in 2020. The team has many different players from last year, but led by seniors Jayda Turchen and Teaira Spaeth and juniors Ava Larson, Izzy Hickethier and Michayla Turchen, the Chiefs have continued to be the dominant team in the league and didn’t have to wait long to earn another league title after the program’s last prior to 2020 came in 1980.
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“I think at the beginning of the season our record from last year and our (conference) win from last year … I think the pressure it seemed to be a lot for them at first,” Lorenzen said of the team. “But with only having two seniors and a couple of juniors, they definitely brought those younger girls in and got them to the level they want to play at.”
Freshman Brianna Glaus had six kills and has worked her way into the lineup in recent weeks, while fellow freshman Bralee Schroeder has shown her versatility as both a setter and a hitter.
“It’s been definitely progressive,” Lorenzen said of the team’s growth. “Braelee Schroeder, she’s our setter, but I’ve had her play middle over the last couple weeks, so she’s been playing lots of positions for me and I think that the other ones just filled in their role and got more confidence with everybody else around them on the court.”
Sophomore Brooke Anderson had 11 digs and served error free with four aces, and fellow sophomore Makya Heatherington had four aces.
Cornell has the chance to complete its second straight unbeaten season of East Lakeland action at home on Thursday against Winter before competing at Shell Lake in a tournament on Saturday.
“It’s exciting, and tonight we were like, ‘One more,’” Lorenzen said. “Now the goal is we’re going to push to go back-to-back undefeated as well, so that’s the goal now.”
Cornell earned a No. 8 seed in the Division 4 playoffs and opens postseason play next Tuesday by hosting No. 9 Owen-Withee in the regional quarterfinals.
Chloe Lee and Hannah Wincek had seven and five assists, respectively, for the Chieftains (5-6 East Lakeland), while Josi Elmberg and Lee had eight digs apiece for the Chieftains. Lake Holcombe led in each set before the Chiefs closed strong in the sweep.
“We did come out very strong in all those sets. I was super impressed with what they were doing,” Lake Holcombe coach Beth Meddaugh said. “They kind of got in their heads, they let some of the little stuff get to them tonight and they had a hard time recovering from that. It would’ve been nice to have a different outcome, at least on a couple of the sets, but I’m happy with what they did.”
A young but adaptable team, Meddaugh is happy with the effort her team has put together this year and thinks that hard work and improvement can bode well for the team both for the rest of the season and beyond.
“They’re an inexperienced team, and they’ve learned a lot of things this year,” Meddaugh said. “We have a lot of players who really have just made great progress this year and they are going to finish the season strong and come out strong next year too.”
Lake Holcombe concludes the regular season at Flambeau on Thursday and is a No. 14 seed for the Division 4 playoffs, opening the playoffs next Tuesday at No. 3 McDonell.
Tuesday’s game was Lake Holcombe’s “Block Out Cancer” event as the team wore special pink jerseys and put together a variety of fundraisers to benefit the Women With Courage Foundation of Rusk County, an organization that helps those battling breast and other cancers with financial assistance.
“The girls were excited to do this, and they worked hard to put it together,” Meddaugh said.