Three Lakes players Kara Sowinski (No. 4), Mari Szews (No. 13) and Addie Lehmann (No. 6) were selected as members to the All-NLC postseason teams following the 2021 season. —Staff Photo By DOUG ETTEN
Three Lakes players Kara Sowinski (No. 4), Mari Szews (No. 13) and Addie Lehmann (No. 6) were selected as members to the All-NLC postseason teams following the 2021 season. —Staff Photo By DOUG ETTEN
The Three Lakes girls volleyball team was recognized recently, as individuals received a number of area and statewide accolades following their 2021 Northern Lakes Conference (NLC) championship season.

Though aspirations of a run into the WIAA Division 4 State Volleyball Tournament fell just short, head coach Jayme Wyss said it didn’t deter from the accomplishments of her team, nor from the contributions of a number of athletes who played their final season for the Bluejays this fall.

In particular seniors Kara Sowinski, Mari Szews and Sara Gruszynski, who over the course of their careers were apart of three separate NLC title-winning teams and two Regional championship teams, were honored following their final season. Other seniors taking part in their final volleyball season were Jasmine Neumann and Olivia Terlizzi.

Sowinski along with Szews were selected as unanimous First Team All-NLC team members, alongside Gruszynski who was also a First Team All-Conference award winner. Szews also collected Co-Player of the Year honors with Elizabeth Krawze of Laona-Wabeno who was also unanimous First Team selection. Also being recognized by the NLC coaches with Second Team All-NLC honors was Three Lakes junior Addie Lehmann.

All three unanimous conference First Team All-NLC selections were also honored by the Wisconsin Volleyball Coaches Association as they each were named to the Statewide All-State First Team. Both Krawze and Sowinski were unanimous picks while Szews was also selected First Team All-State in Division 4.

“What set this group apart I think is how much work they put in outside of the school season,” coach Wyss said of her senior trio. “Volleyball was never a three-month long season for them. They have really been an example of what it takes to be a championship team at that level. You can’t just want it. You have to work for it.”

One of the most highly-decorated athletes in Three Lakes volleyball history is Sowinski who after four seasons as setter for Wyss’ Bluejays will leave as the all-time leader in assists having totaled 2,523 in her career. That goes along with 195 service aces, 137 kills and 709 digs.

“Kara is the core of the team and talented in so many levels and in every way,” said Wyss. “We could do the things we did in large part because we had her as the setter. And it wasn’t just there where she was valuable. Even though she was only 5’ 2”, she could get block kills, led in aces and had great digs. She ran the tempo of the team. She was fast and could make any ball hittable.”

Gruszynski began seeing significant time as a sophomore, and over the last two years was a prominent part of the Bluejays offensive attack at the net. She finished her varsity career with a total of 413 career kills, hitting at a .298 clip meaning nearly one of every three attempts offensively gained a point for her team. She also added 139 career service aces, 427 digs and 44 blocks.

“Sara has really evolved over her three varsity years,” said Wyss. “Last year she really stepped up and owned her role on the team. This year she became one of my most dependable all-around players.”

Szews was part of the middle defense mainly over the course of her first two seasons at the varsity level, and this year factored much more into the offense for Wyss and her team.

“Mari had an average kill percentage of around 42% for the season, and we played against some tough teams,” said Wyss. “She had over 65 block kills for the season, and even if it didn’t end in a kill, her blocks could frustrate hitters for sure. It was nice to be able to showcase her this year and let her show off what she could do.”

Wyss said that although Szews was a quieter player, she had an infectious smile that made playing with her a joy.

“All these girls put in a lot of time to make these last two seasons possible, and I wish for them that they could have seen it all the way through to State,” said Wyss. “All three I feel have the ability to play at the collegiate level, and I hope they find a school that fits for them to be able to continue their volleyball career.”

Szews closed out her career with a total of 780 kills, hitting at a robust .363 clip. She added 107 aces from the service line, total 212 digs and also added 141 career blocks.

Wyss said that while it may feel that in losing this senior class it could be an end to a legendary run, she’s excited about returning a strong defensive crew of Addie Lehmann, Jenna Erickson and Kaya Szews who all saw significant time across this season.

“With them in the back row and blockers Karlee Weavers, Carmen Cornelius and Kallie Volk coming up the pipeline, they’ll mix in with some other good players coming through as well,” said Wyss.