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COLUMBUS — Little by little, point by point, Columbus’ prep girls volleyball team got better as the match went along Tuesday night vs. Lake Mills.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, though, the improvement didn’t happen fast enough to avoid defeat as the L-Cats left town with a 25-15, 25-18, 25-20 Capitol North Conference victory.

“One of the things with having such a young team is the (lack of) experience of (being able to) make adjustments sooner. So when it takes that long to start making those adjustments in a (match), it’s hard to gain that momentum back (after) going in a 2-0 hole,” Cardinals coach Stephanie Juedes said. “So just playing with a little bit more confidence (will make a difference).”

What wasn’t lacking for the Cardinals (4-5, 1-1 Capitol North), however, was effort.

And so despite being swept, Juedes was pleased with the manner in which her team acquitted itself.

“The girls came out swinging,” she said. “They were ready to attack — they approached each ball with energy.”

It just didn’t translate to much momentum throughout the first two sets.

And that was particularly problematic in the second set, when the Cardinals made a decent run at evening the match at a set apiece but were unable to finish the job thanks to too many unforced errors.

“(We) missed five or six serves, and so as soon as you start to generate some momentum and then you miss a serve, you’re just handing it right back,” Juedes said of that second set. “So the inability to take advantage of additional points (because of) missed serves was a tough one (to take) tonight.

Things did go better in the third set, though, as freshman Taylor Raley’s kill early on gave the Cards a 2-0 lead. After Lake Mills knotted things up at 6, Raley answered with another kill that sparked an 8-5 run — one in which sophomore Peyton Priem also had a kill — to give Columbus a 14-11 advantage.

And the Cardinals clung to enough momentum from that surge to keep from folding for the next 15 serves, with the match level at 20.

They couldn’t keep Lake Mills at bay from that point, though, and the L-Cats scored the final five points of the match — the last one on a kill by senior Calla Borchert — to close things out.

Still, it was an overall encouraging night for a Columbus team that lacks experience but still was able to compete well against one of the favorites in the conference title race.

“We’re a team that is often overlooked — we come in as the underdog — which sometimes is OK with us because we’ve learned to be a (surprise team). Tonight, unfortunately, we weren’t able to show that,” Juedes said. “Some of our passing just wasn’t up to par tonight — our swinging was, but our passing was a little off. We have a pretty young team, so it’s just a matter of getting some more experience.”

Lake Mills 25 25 25

Columbus 15 18 20

Lake Mills leaders: Kills — Grace Schopf 9, Calla Borchert 7, Sophia Lee 6. Assists — Sydney Lewellin 2. Aces — Olivia Karlen 4, Grace Schopf 3, Sydney Lewllin 3. Blocks — Calla Borchert 1.5, Sophia Lee 1. Digs — Tatum Riggleman 18.

Columbus leaders: Kills — Taylor Raley 6, Peyton Priem 4. Assists — McKenzye Bruss 15. Aces — Taylor Raley 3, McKenzye Bruss 3. Blocks —Peyton Priem 3, Digs — Hanna Fox 17.

Follow Dan on Twitter @Danny_Larson_8 or contact him at 920-356-6753.

Assistant Regional Sports Editor

Capital Newspapers Assistant Regional Sports Editor