ESCANABA - Dave Wilson said the drought had lasted his entire tenure as athletic director at Escanaba, and for Bron Harmon, it had lasted her entire career as varsity head coach.
But Tuesday night, the Escanaba Eskymos made it rain in the form of a 3-2 (15-25, 25-17, 25-15, 18-25, 15-9) volleyball victory over Gladstone, Escanaba's first dual-meet win in the series since winning three straight over their rival during the 2007 season.
"We wanted it really bad," said senior Holly Ettenhofer, who was able to celebrate a victory over Gladstone for the first time in her career. "We haven't beaten Gladstone in a conference match in a long time and it feels amazing."
Photo by Paul Gerard
Kamille Fritz reacts after the fifth set, giving the Eskymos the victory.
Ettenhofer led the way for the Eskymos, recording seven kills with 14 assists, 10 digs and four aces.
But Ettenhofer was far from the only contributor for Escanaba, which received a total team effort from players such as Ashley Cook on defense and Sydney Gafner, Kamille Fritz, Alliyah Edwards and Kathryn Wellman on offense.
Escanaba was able to minimize mistakes that had plagued them in previous matches in the series while capitalizing off hitting and serving errors by the Braves in the third and fourth sets.
Escanaba 3, Gladstone 2
GLADSTONE - Mackenzie Pardonnet (3 kills, 1 ace, 2 blocks); Ashley Berthaume (2 aces); Summer Demeuse (11 kills, 2 aces, 10 digs, 1 block); Lexi Hongisto (13 kills, 3 aces, 1 block); Grace Zimmermann (8 digs); Callie Jensen (2 kills, 26 assists, 2 aces, 10 digs).
ESCANABA - Holly Ettenhofer (7 kills, 14 assists, 4 aces 10 digs); Kamille Fritz (6 kills, 1 block); Ashley Cook (3 aces, 23 digs); Sydney Gafner (8 kills, 2 aces, 3 digs); Alexa Langsford (8 assists); Alliyah Edwards (5 kills, 3 aces, 4 digs); Kathryn Wellman (6 kills, 5 digs).
"We talked about coming in tonight and minimizing hitting errors and serving errors," said Harmon. "Because we're playing good defense and continued to play good defense tonight and we're working hard together, we did a much better job of minimizing errors."
Gladstone coach Liz Gendron said it came down to mistakes at inopportune times.
"We served poorly tonight. We wanted to serve aggressively though and that's what you give up when you want to serve aggressively," she said. "We stopped serving that way in he second and third matches and that's what cost us."
The Braves did get excellent production from outside hitters Lexi Hongisto and Summer Demeuse, who had 13 kills and 11 kills respectively.
"Our hitters hit much better today than we have all season. We had two key blocks from Mackenzie (Pardonnet) and that will boost her confidence, which helps. Kelsey (Fournier) also did a good job coming off the bench.
"Overall, I'm very happy. We played much better today than we did Saturday (at the Escanaba Elks Invite), that's for sure."
Things did look precarious for the Eskymos for a while. After taking a two games to one lead, the Braves took control in the fourth set on a late 7-0 run by Callie Jensen, and never looked back. Seemingly having the momentum at that point, Gladstone came out confident in the fifth set.
But unlike the two teams' previous meeting this year, which also went five sets, Escanaba rose to the challenge this time, taking a commanding 8-3 lead. Two Braves timeouts couldn't slow the Eskymos, who fought off a Braves rally attempt before erupting in a chorus of cheers.
"We got comfortable and lost a bit in that last set, but we stayed good," said Ettenhofer. "I have confidence in my team all the time. We're family and we stay together."
Gendron said win or lose, it's always great to play Escanaba.
"Escanaba-Gladstone is always an exciting game. It doesn't matter if both teams have no wins or they're both undefeated, it's always an exciting match that almost always goes five sets. That's what makes it fun," she said.
The two teams will meet again in districts on Oct. 29 in Gladstone.
"It's probably going to be another rive-game set, back and fourth, aggressive play," said Gendron. "It's going to be fun."