GLADSTONE - Fast starts and long runs powered the Gladstone Braves to a 3-0 (25-15, 25-17, 25-18) sweep of Norway on the volleyball court Thursday night.
If the Braves weren't getting a bevy of kills, as they did in the decisive third set, they got the pushes they needed and some solid serving, while capitalizing on a flurry of errors from Norway.
"Compared to last week, we moved a lot better, hit a lot better, we changed a few things defensive that worked really well, our serving was on and we hit in the .220s so that's awesome," said Braves coach Liz Gendron.
Keith Shelton | Daily Press
Gladstone Braves’ Callie Heller (20) and Mackenzie Pardonnet (2) celebrate after the end of the third set against Norway Thursday night at Gladstone.
Keith Shelton | Daily Press
Gladstone’s Lexi Hongisto (5) spikes the ball over Norway’s Paige Sheski (7) during the second set, Thursday night at Gladstone.
"Our setter was more offensive, which really made a big difference, we had great blocking. All in all, we really played a great game."
The big difference was a long streak of hitting errors from the Knights. Though Gladstone had a few "mental lapses" as well, according to Gendron, they were limited and isolated.
"A lot of errors," agreed Norway coach Kayla DeBakker. "But we're missing two of our middle players, one is a six foot senior who has been out for a week and a half sick, and the other has been out two weeks with an ankle injury."
Gladstone: Summer Demeuse (2 kills, 1 ace, 10 digs); Mackenzie Pardonnet (2 kills, 2 assists); Lexi Hongisto (6 kills, 4 aces, 4 digs); Breanna Aird (2 kills, 3 aces, 2 assists, 3 digs); Jessica Beaudry (12 kills, 5 digs, 1 block, 1 assist); Callie Jensen (4 kills, 21 assists, 3 aces, 10 digs, 1 block).
The Braves weren't overly dominating offensively until the third set when they hit at a .273 clip with 11 kills. Jess Beaudry racked had five spikes in that set and finished with a team-leading 12 total.
Norway scored the first two points of the set, but Gladstone's Callie Jensen led a nine-point service run. Jensen also had a good night offensively, setting up Beaudry and Lexi Hongisto with 21 assists. The Braves led by as much as 16-4 before letting Norway back in on a four-point run. Near the end of the set, Hongisto made a spectacular diving no-look bump from out of nowhere that inexplicably went over the net to score a point and give the Braves a 24-16 lead. She also had four aces. Summer Demeuse and Jensen had 10 digs apiece.
The Knights' best showing was in the second set. Kelsey Fournier started Gladstone off on a five point service run but Norway fought back and led 17-16 powered by outside hitter Paige Sheski, before collapsing. Fournier closed the set out on a nine-point run and the momentum was firmly in Gladstone's court.
Norway, while playing a solid defensive game, couldn't get consistent scoring going.
"Communication," stressed DeBakker. "We just broke down. It's a young team though. Hopefully next year our communication will be a lot better."
Gendron praised the Knights' defensive effort.
"They dug quite well and their libero did a great job," she said. "They served tough, but we talked about getting that first pass up and doing something with it. We didn't get a lot of junk balls tonight, which is nice when you play a team that plays aggressively."
Gladstone resumes Saturday for their home invitational, The Rock.