GATORS 3 MUSTANGS 2

LAND O’ LAKES – District games are getting a little exhausting for Land O’ Lakes: Three league contests, three five setters.

If they end like Thursday night, though, the Gators will be just fine.

Land O’ Lakes earned its first league victory by coming back from a 2-1 hole and gutting out a 3-2 victory over Class 7A District 8 frontrunner Mitchell High.

“I’m elated. I’m almost speechless and I’m rarely speechless,” said LOL coach Ike Klauka. “But it was a tough one. I knew Mitchell would bring everything they could at us and I was hoping the homecourt advantage would be the difference and I’ll just say it was.”

Making LOL’s Thursday night victory sweeter was that it was taken, not given. The Gators came back to win from a 22-18 deficit in the first set before dropping the next two, 25-20 and 25-15, respectively. Mitchell then held a slim lead throughout the fourth set until LOL went on a game-changing 8-0 run to flip an 18-16 deficit into a 24-18 advantage. A clutch service sequence from Brette Heymann and a couple big kills from Gracie Stanley and Madison Lord-Smith fueled the run and LOL held off Mitchell’s late rally to win the set 25-23.

The tiebreaking fifth set featured big plays on both sides of the net. LOL’s three-point lead at 11-8 was the largest of the set for either team and Mitchell held match point three times.

With the set tied 13-13, a huge play by Mustangs sophomore Karsten Mohr set up Mitchell’s first match point opportunity. Mohr made a diving dig to put up a spike from LOL’s Lord-Smith and Mitchell senior Kennedy DeLuca pounded down the point-winning kill.

DeLuca had a big night at the net and put the Mustangs up 15-14 with another kill two points later, but LOL wouldn’t back down until it pulled out the 19-17 victory.

The Gators improved to 9-5 overall and 1-2 in District 7A-8 play with the win. Adding to the impressiveness of Thursday’s win, Klauka said, was that LOL pulled it off without All-Conference setter Shayna Heymann. The senior is sidelined temporarily after suffering a concussion earlier this week.

Mitchell won seven of its last eight matches before Thursday’s defeat. The Mustangs are now 11-5 overall and 2-1 in league play.

Both teams are done playing for the week until a pair of Tuesday night district matches. LOL heads to Springstead and Mitchell goes to Sunlake.

BOX SCORE:

MIT - 22 – 25 – 25 – 23 – 17 --- 2

LOL - 25 – 20 – 15 – 25 – 19 --- 3