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Individual milestones go with Patriots' success

The Pequot Lakes Patriots volleyball team has compiled one of its best regular season records in program history with 23 victories in 27 matches this fall.

Laura Squires, center, joins her parents Chuck and Val, at the Sauk Rapids/Rice gymnasium after the Pequot Lakes senior surpassed 1,000 digs for her volleyball career. Submitted photo
Laura Squires, center, joins her parents Chuck and Val, at the Sauk Rapids/Rice gymnasium after the Pequot Lakes senior surpassed 1,000 digs for her volleyball career. Submitted photo

The Pequot Lakes Patriots volleyball team has compiled one of its best regular season records in program history with 23 victories in 27 matches this fall.

Along with that success comes individual honors like career milestones, which one Pequot Lakes senior has attained and a second senior is on the doorstep of achieving.

The first Patriot to reach an individual milestone was Laura Squires, who surpassed 1,000 career digs on Saturday, Oct. 10, at the Sauk Rapids/Rice tournament.

"It happened in our match against Cloquet," Squires recalled. "After the game, our group of parents stood up with (congratulation) signs. The (Cloquet fans) were confused why were were cheering after we had lost. It was a nice feeling (to reach the milestone), but I just wish we would have won."

Squires added that digs aren't a statistic that excites fans like a successful attack.

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"I still feel great that I'm getting the ball up for my team," she said. "I'm not worried about who gets the credit. I just enjoy doing my job."

Digs are a defensive contact with the volleyball following an opponent's attack that results in a playable ball. In other words, Squires' ability to "dig" the volleyball is the first step to offensive success for the Patriots.

"As a libero, Laura starts our offense," said Pequot Lakes Kate Dale. "What some people don't understand is that if a team can't pass the ball to your setter, your offense doesn't do very well and is not very competitive.

"Laura is our best passer, and a team's best passer needs to touch the ball every possession. She passes probably 90 percent of serve receive balls to target, so then our hitters, like Corina (Ruud), Brittny (Bzdok) and Morgan (Lohmiller) can get their kills."

Lohmiller is close to a milestone as the she's just seven set assists away from reaching 1,000 for her career after added 17 against Walker-Hackensack-Akeley on Monday, Oct. 19. She had a chance to surpass the mark in the final regular season match on Tuesday, Oct. 20, at Crosby-Ironton.

"It would be a big accomplishment for me because not a lot of players get to 1,000 set assists," Lohmiller said of set assists, which are awarded for any set ball that results in a teammate's kill on the ensuing attack. "It really helps our offense that we've been playing together for so long. Most of us have played on the same (Junior Olympic) team starting at age 13 or 14.

"I can connect with our hitters. That says a lot about trust because I trust (Laura Squires) will be in the back row getting the ball to me."

Dale said that Lohmiller fits the Patriots' system.

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"Morgan has been a setter in our 6-2 system for three years, and she is one of the reasons we run a 6-2 because of her height and her ability to hit and set," the coach said. "In a 6-2 system we have six attackers or hitters and two setters, with the setter coming out of the back row which allows us to have three front row hitters at all times.

"The biggest improvement Morgan has made this year is her mental side of the game. She is much smarter volleyball player. She reads the opponent and tries to exploit their weaknesses both when she sets and when she is a hitter."

Reaching the milestones for Squires and Lohmiller is possible since both have seen plenty of action as healthy and consistent three-year starters.

"I've stayed pretty healthy," Squires said. "I have some bruises on hips. knees and elbows, but that's part of the job. You have to get on the floor (for digs) and sometimes you get scrapes on hands and floor burns, but it's all worth it in the end."

Dale praised Squires for agreeing to switch from a left-side hitter to libero during the season.

"That meant Laura would give up hitting in the front row, and everybody likes to hit," the coach said. "Laura's willingness to switch positions in the middle of her senior year shows her dedication to the team. Although the libero position maybe doesn't get the recognition that the hitters get, she is just as important. Hitters can't hit without a good pass."

Dale added that Squires improved her skills by working hard in the gymnasium and attending camps.

"Laura has spent many hours working on her passing technique, but also has learned how to read the opposing setters and hitters," Dale said. "She positions herself well in order to pass the ball. As the match goes on Laura may pick up hitters' or setters' tendencies and key on them. She is a very smart player."

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Squires agreed that the camps were beneficial at improving her skills while playing her "favorite sport."

"I'm not the quickest person out there, so I need to (be successful) when it comes with reading the ball and adjusting (to the attacker)," she said. "I look at how the set will be, and I watch the (position) of the attacker."

Squires and Lohmiller have also helped the Patriots steadily improve in recent years. Last year, Pequot Lakes finished 12-14 overall after an early exit from the playoffs.

"We don't want to get ahead of ourselves, but it would be amazing to go to state," Squires said. "I think our best chance is this year since we've played together for a long time. We've also adjusted to the pressure (of winning)."

Lohmiller agreed.

"We all really want to make it to state this year," she said. "We want to do better than the past two years."

Pequot Lakes' Laura Squires, left, and Morgan Lohmiller both reached career milestones as Squires surpassed 1,000 digs on Saturday, Oct. 10, and Lohmiller topped 1,000 set assists on Monday, Oct. 19. Photo by Pete Mohs
Pequot Lakes' Laura Squires, left, and Morgan Lohmiller both reached career milestones as Squires surpassed 1,000 digs on Saturday, Oct. 10, and Lohmiller topped 1,000 set assists on Monday, Oct. 19. Photo by Pete Mohs

Related Topics: PEQUOT LAKES VOLLEYBALL
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