CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – Fifth-seeded Lakeland was valiant in their contest at No. 1 John Jay (Cross River) in the Section 1 Class A semifinals on Oct. 31.
After losing the first set, 11-25, Lakeland took the second set, 26-24, and hung tough in the final two sets but lost them, 19-25 and 23-25, allowing John Jay to earn a 3-1 victory.
“After the first set, we realized that if we wanted to have a chance to play in the finals, we had to come together as a team and play to our full potential,” Lakeland junior Caitlin Wisker said. “From then on, we had great serving and awesome hitting. Even though we came up short, our level of play was the best it had been in the past couple of weeks, and we’re very proud of that.”
Emily Kubicsko (12 kills), Wisker (8 kills), Kayla Jennings (6 kills) and Victoria Tsui (12 assists) contributed to the effort of the Hornets, who are already looking forward to next season.
“Our season was so successful because of the strong chemistry that we have with one another, including with our coaches,” Wisker said. “Overall, we’re a very compatible team, both on and off the court. This was the furthest that we have gone competitively in a while, and I’m proud to say that I was a part of that experience. I can’t wait for next season. Even though it will be my last, I think it’ll be our best, yet. We only have one way to go, and that’s up.”
Lakeland (15-6) lost the first two sets at No. 4 Tappan Zee, 22-25 and 20-25, before winning the last three, 25-21, 25-22, and 25-23, to earn a wild 3-2 comeback win in the quarterfinals on Oct. 29.
“It felt amazing to pull off such a great comeback,” Kubicsko said. “After losing the first two sets and trailing in the third set, we had to refocus and take it point by point. Once we finally took the lead on the third set, we knew we had to finish it if we wanted our season to continue and we did. That was the game changer for us. We tightened up our defense which gave us the opportunity to set up our offense, resulting in an exciting win.”
Lakeland coach Steve Fallo was very proud of his team’s effort.
“They knew they didn’t play well in the first two games and just wanted to make sure that we got to game four,” Fallo said. “They never panicked and kept their emotions in check. They took it one point at a time. When we get to game five, they were very confident because of the success we have had in our five-game matches.”
Kubicsko’s effort (15 kills, 4 blocks, 20 digs, 3 aces) was a big reason for the comeback.
“We knew we had to take each point at a time by focusing on the little things in order to have better offense and defense,” Kubicsko said. “After fixing those few mistakes, we were able to come out with a win.”
Jennings (8 kills, 3 aces), Wisker (6 kills, 4 aces) and Tsui (18 assists), also played important roles in a statement victory.
“It was a terrific team win and it puts us in the semifinals which is a big accomplishment for our team,” Fallo said. “I don’t think anybody picked us to be in the semifinals during the season.”