Lakeland men’s volleyball will look to claim national championship

Paul Elzinga, Staff Reporter

“The prep work is done. We have been preparing since the first day of practice and had one of our best practices just this past Monday. The guys are very excited for nationals and so they also need to start doing some mental preparation. It will be a long three day tournament with every opponent being an obstacle to our ultimate goal.”

Those are the words of Men’s Volleyball Head Coach Joe Julkowski. His men’s volleyball team will be competing this weekend in Kansas City for a national championship.

“I will always have the highest expectations for the team. I want them to focus on the things we have worked on and continue to measure their success by the work they do on the court and not by the results. If they put in the work and give their best effort 100 percent of the time, the results will show,” Julkowski says.

Julkowski stressed the great type of talent by opposing teams that will be seen in Kansas City. But he believes that when the Muskies play their best ball, they are capable of beating anyone.

Many standouts from the Muskies will give Lakeland a positive mindset entering the tournament.

Dayton Erickson will control a majority of the matches. He is a young leader already, but will need to make some improvements in that leadership role if Lakeland plans to be in control of their matches.

Alec Redlich has been Lakeland’s biggest offensive threat with 470 kills this season and is on pace to break Lakeland’s single-season record.

Ralph Kokoszka and Andy Cheever have been the best defensive players. Kokoszka, at the net, has great speed getting from pin to pin and is able to reach across the net making for some incredible blocks.

Cheever is the libero and is a main reason for Lakeland’s success this season. He gives Lakeland extra offensive opportunities by picking up loose balls hit around or off a block.

The Muskies are led by a talented senior class that is able to express leadership and experience on the court.

Beau Bradshaw, Dan Sheets-Poling, and Andy Cheever have all been on a national championship court before. This will play a great roll in the preparation of a mental game for them.

“These leaders have given Lakeland a lot to look up to. They should be proud already of what they have helped to accomplish this season. The most crucial thing for the seniors is to help the team maintain their composure and play Lakeland volleyball. If we try to play like an opponent, we will lose. It is important to do what we do best and not try to replicate any other team’s offense,” said Julkowski.

“I am very excited to return to Kansas City,” he said. “Last time we were there, we lost to the eventual national champions, Fresno State, in the semi-finals. Last year’s nationals did not end the way we had hoped but we are optimistic that we have more experience and more will to succeed. The team is focused on what needs to happen to accomplish our goals. Many of our wins at nationals will be considered “upsets” but not in my book. We are a great team and I can’t wait to prove it in Kansas City! Go Muskies!”

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