The Top of Iowa Conference is now in its eighth school year, and for the sixth time in eight years, the Lake Mills Bulldogs have won the West volleyball crown. “It’s huge, no question because we had to win on the road,” said Lake Mills coach Jim Boehmer.
This is Boehmer’s 31st year as the head volleyball coach at Lake Mills and his 20th conference title in the past 26 years. The first for the Bulldogs on the road since 2016, and Boehmer credits that to Forest City coach Lacy Jerome and the environment Forest City fans create, “This gym is not friendly, and it shouldn’t – we don’t want our gym to be friendly either and it isn’t,” said Boehmer.
The Bulldogs didn’t have much problem in the first set, beating Forest City 25-12. Forest City didn’t go down easy; the Indians fought back in the second set and took the lead 23-19. Lake Mills called timeout, and whatever was said sparked the Bulldogs to rally off six straight points to win the set 25-23. “A lot of our conversations when we call timeout is that we need to earn the win and a lot of don’t give up keep fighting,” said senior Finley Rogstad. “Sometimes a timeout ends, and you can look at a team like this sets over – this time, they almost had a look like – we’re going to win,” said Boehmer. And win is exactly what Lake Mills did; they got the momentum and never looked back.
That momentum carried over to the third set, where Lake Mills led most of the set. Forest City did come back and take the lead 23-21, and once again, the Indians couldn’t get over the 23-point wall until Lake Mills scored three straight to take the lead 24-23; the Indians forced extra points but went on to lose the third set, 27-25. “It feels really good for me, but I’m sure it feels good for everyone else. To come into their gym and win all three straight feels pretty good,” said senior setter Karli Helgeson.
Helgeson was coming off an injury and was one of the many setters Lake Mills was looking at to replace Leah Moen, who graduated after a stellar career. Helgeson won the job and is nearing 500 assists on the season. “I worked a lot with hitters. I’ve really never worked with these hitters, so it was really hard to connect, but eventually, we got there,” said Helgeson. Helgeson had 34 assists last night, helping the Bulldogs win the conference title for the first time with her on the court.
Ellie Hanna had a spectacular night for the Bulldogs leading the way with 14 kills and seven digs. She was 14-17, serving with two aces. The senior has had one of the best seasons by a TIC West player and could be a candidate for conference player of the year, while other postseason honors shouldn’t be far-fetched. Lake Mills’ outstanding junior defensive player, Taylor Vanek, was 18-19, serving with an ace and 11 digs. At the same time, senior Natalie Brandenburg had a team-high 17 digs. Brandenburg withstood a barrage of Forest City attacks throughout the night.
With the conference title under their belt, Lake Mills will now gear up for the best team in Class 2A and possibly the best team in the entire state, Dike-New Hartford, who will come to Lake Mills next Thursday. The Wolverines bolsters two of the state’s finest volleyball players in sisters Jadyn and Payton Petersen, who are both committed to Division 1 schools as juniors. “It’ll be fun, Rogstad said of playing such a great team. “I think they’ll be a good experience for us (because) we play them, then we go into the postseason, so it’ll seem like a joyride,” she also stated.
When asked if she felt they could beat Dike, Rogstad confidently said, “Yes.” She later added, “We can’t be scared of them; as long as we play to our full potential, I think we can keep up with them, yeah, they’re going to get their big kills, but we can get ours.”
Lake Mills is now 23-4 8-0
Forest City falls to 15-9 7-1.
The Indians will next be in action on Monday, October 11th at Central Spring, while the Bulldogs will play a quad at home on the same day against North Butler, Hampton-Dumont-CAL, and Nashua-Plainfield.
Q: Did you think the team could come back and beat Forest City in the second set?
Q: Your team has so many offensive weapons; how does that help the section?
Q: You guys almost seem excited for your teams to score rather than yourself?
Q: How does the conference title feel, and what do you think about the support for this team?
Q: You competed for the starting setting job this year; what did you do in practice to get to this point?
Q: How does it feel to win?
Q: Talk about the comeback