Lakeside High School's volleyball season ended Tuesday, but the mood among its players was one of a mission accomplished.
The Panthers bowed out of the Class AAAA playoffs after being swept, 3-0, by Dutchtown.
But Lakeside players and coach Hannah Funsch pointed to their Region 3-AAAA title and first-round victory as proof of a successful season.
"I tried to encourage them that it was all about bettering yourselves from last year," Funsch said. "We've done exactly that. And I can't complain."
The Panthers finished region runner-up in the 2008 season and were ousted in the first round of the playoffs. The region title this season was a goal the current crop of Lakeside seniors accomplished for the first time. The next goal was a victory in the state playoffs, which Lakeside met with a first-round sweep of North Springs on Oct. 15.
Both were improvements from last season, and took some of the sting out of the second round defeat.
"We met our goals," senior Leslie Rhoades said. "I would have wanted to win, but I'm still excited."
The Dutchtown Bulldogs, the No. 3 seed out of Region 4-AAAA, won its first two playoff matches in six games to advance to the quarterfinals. Bulldogs coach Angela Williams said her team frustrated her at times during the regular season, but that they seem to have turned the corner.
"They peaked at the right time," Williams said. "They had some times during the season where I was like, 'Oh, Lord.' But now, they finally are playing together as a team and you can tell a difference."
Funsch said the scouting report on Dutchtown was that it was a sleeper and possible title contender.
The Bulldogs won with scores of 27-25, 25-17, 25-18.
Lakeside battled back from a 5-0 deficit in Game 1 to twice serve for game point, but the Panthers could not close.
"I always like to come out and win the first game to set the tone for the rest," Funsch said. "But my girls have had a wonderful season."
Dutchtown looked stronger after that.
The Bulldogs led the duration of Game 2 and came back from a 6-1 deficit in Game 3 to win handily.
Williams said her players had to adjust from the more than two-hour bus ride.
That's an advantage Lakeside enjoyed during the playoffs. The Panthers played host to the first two rounds.
The team's seniors had not played a playoff match at home before this season.
"We loved playing at home," Funsch said. "This is the biggest crowd we've ever had."
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