La PORTE — Even though she's listed as a setter, that doesn't mean Paige Conklin can't spike a volleyball.
In fact, the La Porte junior relishes those opportunities. And she seems to shine when given the chance.
Conklin's hitting prowess and net game were on display on Tuesday night, helping the Slicers claim a highly-competitive first game en route to dispatching visiting Lake Central in three games, 25-21, 25-6, 25-17, to close the first half of the Duneland Athletic Conference schedule.
“It's different than setting,” Conklin said of her hitting and offensive game. “I work in practice a lot on it because it's very different.
"When I get a kill, it's different from setting a person to get a kill. You get more cheering and stuff, because as a setter you don't."
Conklin and the Slicers (15-3, 6-1 DAC) fended off the pesky Indians (11-9, 5-2 DAC) in the opening game. La Porte followed by cruising in Game 2, then controlled most of the third game to win its 20th conference match in last 21 DAC outings.
“We played pretty good for the most part tonight,” Slicers coach Cassie Holmquest said. “It was a good way to end the first half of the DAC. So overall, I was pretty happy with how everything went.”
Conklin finished with nine kills, good for second best on the team, and led La Porte with 14 assists. She also had six digs, to go along with three blocks and a pair of aces.
“Paige played really well tonight,” Holmquest added. “Paige really stood out. She was doing what we talked about at practice. She was swinging fast. She was really consistent, hitting her shots.”
This campaign especially, Conklin has improved her ability to hit the ball, giving the Slicers another weapon at the net.
"It's really good for her," Holmquest said while laughing a little bit. "It just makes her more versatile."
That flexibility is something Conklin doesn't shy away from.
Besides being a quality setter, she plays durable defense and now is an offensive threat as well.
"It's really good and fun," Conklin added. "And helps me become a better player."
Early in the opening game, La Porte spread the ball around, however, neither team could distance itself.
That game was tight with both squads not having more than a two-point lead until the Slicers took a 20-17 advantage late in that contest. Lake Central rallied and knotted the first game again, 20-20, but La Porte captured five of the next six points. Lexi Joyner sealed that game after her kill, 25-21.
In Game 2, the Slicers took firm command. They jumped ahead 9-2 and never looked back.
Annalise Warnock was pivotal offensively and Conklin had a pair of kills in a four-point stretch to make it 20-3. La Porte won the second game, 25-6, following Aniya Kennedy's thunderous kill.
In the third game, Kennedy really came alive offensively for the Slicers, aiding their 11-6 cushion to force an Indians' timeout.
"We just started running her more," Holmquest added. "Just started using her more. She does bring a lot of energy and really gets the girls kind of amped up, especially if we're playing a little flat. It's good to have a kid who can do that."
The visitors cut the margin to two a few times in Game 3, but never got closer. La Porte claimed that contest and the match, 25-17, after its block.
All night, the Slicers' serving was stout, too.
“We work a lot on serving in practice,” Holmquest said. “Most of the drills we do have serving somewhere embedded in them. That just helps that we practice our serve quite a bit.
"Serving can win games, so it's really important to be consistent with your serve."
Warnock paced La Porte with 10 kills and two aces, and Kennedy had seven kills. Olivia Voelker tallied 19 digs and two aces, while Halle Seaburg added 13 assists, 10 digs and three aces. Justine Talbert recorded four blocks.
Conklin added the squad's vigor and cohesion were key.
“Our energy at the end brought us together,” she said. "And we all played as a team.”
La Porte's junior varsity won 25-15, 25-20.
La Porte 25-25-25, Lake Central 21-6-17
Annalise Warnock guided the Slicers with 10 kills.