Inter-Lakes freshman Emma Wheeler winds up for a hit in the opening set of the host Lakers' 25-13, 25-10, 25-16 sweep of visiting Prospect Mountain last week in Meredith. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
October 17, 2016MEREDITH – For the first two years of her high school career, Inter-Lakes senior Rebecca Otis had one main objective: set the ball. But entering her junior year, the team's starting setter was asked to shift to the back row, and serve as the brand new libero.
Just over one season later, the results are in: transition successful.
In just her second year as the team's defensive anchor, Otis joined the 500-dig club last week. Her dig on the second point of the second game against Prospect Mountain was enough to reach the feat, and she toppled the mark with an important stretch run of the regular season on the horizon.
"After her sophomore year, I sort of hinted that I wanted to move (Otis) from setter to libero and she was really unsure about it," explained I-L head coach Randy Mattson. "But I've had the thought of moving her in the back of my mind since she was in middle school. She's always had a desire to get the ball, and I thought she was just the perfect candidate to play libero for us. The opportunity presented itself and it didn't take long for her to succeed."
Otis, who needed three digs on the night to record the 500 mark, finished with seven digs in a tidy sweep of Prospect on Oct. 11. The Lakers won via 25-13, 25-10, 25-16 scores, capturing their eighth victory in a row in the process.
"As a former setter, she knows exactly where the ball needs to be, and it helps having her out there as another person capable of setting the ball if we need her," Mattson said.
The win was another in a line of dominating victories for an I-L team that entered this week without a loss since way back on Sept. 16. That's a span of nine matches, and Mattson said perhaps the most impressive thing over the past month has been her team's ability to stay focused.
"We've been working on the mental part of the game and it's really showing for us," she offered. "We're playing with a lot of confidence right now."
Despite an early 8-6 deficit in the first set, I-L responded with a 6-0 run on the service of junior Jordan Durand. Hailey Hart added a kill, and the Lakers took a 14-8 lead they wouldn't relinquish. A late service run from Jessalyn Brown (22-for-22 serving, 17 points) was capped with kills from Maegan Bunnell and Amanda Kurowski, and the Lakers wound up closing the frame on a 19-5 run for a 25-13 win.
"We know that (PM) took a set from Nute this year so we were expecting a big battle," Mattson said.
The Lakers (11-2) dominated the second set, jumping out to a 6-0 lead and pulling away for a 25-10 win, and they were rarely challenged in the third en route to a clinching 25-16 victory.
Brown finished with 17 assists and seven digs in a stellar effort that saw the sophomore setter incorporate her entire arsenal of offensive weapons.
"Our offense is really clicking right now and (Brown) is making just great choices with her passing," said Mattson.
Senior captain Amanda Kurowski totaled five kills and five blocks in an active performance at the net, while freshman Emma Wheeler continued to step into a key role with eight service points and a pair of kills. Bunnell added four kills while Hart had 10 service points and three kills.
This week's final set of regular season matches will be a challenge however, as the Lakers welcome Nute and Winnisquam to Meredith before the season finale on the road at defending state champion Sunapee. All three teams have double digit wins and are near or at the top of the NHIAA Division III standings.