MacKenzie Parnewicz (No. 5) rises up for an attack against a pair of Lakeland defenders during Tuesday’s GNC win.
MacKenzie Parnewicz (No. 5) rises up for an attack against a pair of Lakeland defenders during Tuesday’s GNC win.
The Lakeland T-Birds had plans of an upset last Thursday night in Eagle River, but Northland Pines senior Jacqueline Smith and the rest of her team would have none of it.

One of the conference’s best offensive attackers led all players on the night with 22 kills, and in tallying one of her best matches of the season, Smith helped push the Northland Pines girls volleyball team to a three-set sweep of their rivals, winning 14-25, 18-25 and 20-25.

Afterwards, head coach Julie Smith commented on the week as a whole, and how it played into this week’s big matches.

“It definitely was a good week for us,” said Smith. “We were able to have some looks at what others can do to help the team out in different areas, which means lots of playing time for those that have not been seeing the court as much.

“Everyone did a great job staying energized and competitive.”

At one point in each of the three sets last Thursday Pines trailed Lakeland, though only momentarily, as in each instance Jacqueline Smith or the Pines defense seemed to come away with a key play which never allowed Lakeland to get into a run.

As a whole, the Lady T-Birds struggled at the net against a Pines defense that on the evening totaled five blocks and 49 digs.

Lizzy Gauthier and Lily Bontrager both had strong evenings at the net and defensively, as did setter Samantha Huelskamp, who ended the evening with 28 assists.

Offensively the 22 kills for Smith fueled the Pines offense, but the ability of Huelskamp to spread the ball around was key, according to the Eagles coach.

“Jaqueline is our ‘go-to’ if we need to push a point, or even just get the momentum back on our side,” said coach Julie Smith. “She’s a very safe set.

“We have been working on not utilizing her too much, where she gets shut down or worn down. In doing that we’ve also been able to develop the confidence in the other attackers.”

Along with her 22 kills, Smith added three blocks and also had a pair of aces.

MacKenzie Parnewicz had a good night also with five kills and a pair of digs. 

At 6-2 in the Great Northern Conference (GNC) the Pines squad rests firmly in second place trailing only Mosinee (8-0) with just a week left on the regular season schedule.

Tuesday will be a big night for both Pines and Mosinee as the Eagles will travel to face a much-improved Tomahawk team, needing a win to keep pace with Mosinee.

The league-leading Indians will travel to Medford to face the Raiders, who Smith said haven’t been the same team this year they’ve been in the past.

Pines will likely need the Raiders to win that match before Saturday’s conference tourney in Minocqua, where they meet Mosinee in the second rotation with a possibility of splitting the league title with a win.

“(This) weekend is on my mind constantly, but we still have a battle to get past on Tuesday at Tomahawk,” said Smith. “They are going to come out strong after changing their offense and losing to us at the last conference tournament. They did not compete as well as they are capable of competing, when they saw us. They beat Antigo on Tuesday and took a set from Mosinee on Thursday.

“So as much as we may want to look ahead, we need to focus on Tuesday first.”

This weekend’s action in Minocqua will get underway at Lakeland Union High School at 10 a.m. with three courts in action.

Opening the day, Lakeland will face Tomahawk on court one, Pines will face Antigo on court two, and Rhinelander will take on Medford on court three.

“At this point anything is possible,” said Smith. “Mosinee isn’t unbeatable, but we just need to take care of what we can control and let the rest play out.”

Pines took Mosinee to five sets back in mid-September in Mosinee before falling by three in the fifth and deciding match.

Hopefully, the team will have senior Macy Marion back this week after she missed last week with a concussion. 

“We’ll see how she feels, but we’re hoping to have her back for the game against Tomahawk,” said Smith.

Win over Rhinelander

Tuesday’s action was on the road last week in Rhinelander where Pines took care of business in straight sets, winning 25-8, 25-12 and 25-15.

“It was a good win tonight,” said Smith. “We had confidence going in that we could walk away with the win and sometimes those are the toughest matches to play because so often it is difficult to continue to play at our level throughout the match.

“We got into a few slumps where there was no energy; however, the team pulled out of them and played well.”

Jacqueline Smith paced the team with 18 kills, followed by seven from Parne­wicz and five from Kristin Schaars.

Bontrager led with 10 digs, followed by nine from Smith. Huelskamp added 22 assists.

“The girls did a nice job working with a few different lineups and with some younger players who were getting varsity experience tonight,” said Smith.