Eskymos edge Blue Devils
ESCANABA — It felt like a clash of titans here Thursday as the Escanaba and Sault Ste. Marie volleyball teams battled it out, and — with the minimal crowd and benches roaring — it almost felt like restrictions didn’t exist as the Eskymos edged the Blue Devils 3-2 (18-25, 25-17, 24-26, 25-22, 15-11).
“For having six people in the stands, it seemed like there was 1,000,” Esky coach Adam Lambert joked. “Okay, there was more than six, but it was great. It was because it was great volleyball. When you’re going point to point and set to set the crowd loves that.
“Man, that was good volleyball. There were some really long volleys and digs and girls all over the floor poppin’ the ball back up. That was volleyball, and that’s what I love to coach.”
The Sault was down 11-8 in the final set before the Blue Devils’ Faith White earned a kill to regain possession, and Jordyn Haller — who finished with 24 kills — further cut their deficit to 11-10 with a spike straight through the arms of the Escanaba defender.
“We’ve relied heavily on Jordyn all season — sometimes a little too heavily, so it was nice to see some other kids step up and help take some weight off of her,” Sault coach Jessica Muwaski said. “I thought Faith really did that tonight. She got some kills in some really key moments, and she stayed in it even when things weren’t going her way. She had a great attitude, and I think her teammates fed off of it.”
Shortly after a Sault return landed out of bounds adding to the 13-10 Esky lead. The Blue Devils had one more opportunity when Claire Erickson tipped one over to make it 13-11, but the Eskymos’ Nicole Kamin earned her 22nd kill with a spike to extend their lead to 14-11. Esky defenders blocked a final shot to seal the set and the match 15-11.
“Kamin came out with 22 kills tonight,” Lambert said. “Oh my goodness.
“I have an assistant coach Dakota, who was calling some plays. It was in the fifth set, and she looks over to me and says: ‘Not to brag, but everything I’ve called they’ve performed and scored.’ So, I said: ‘You keep callin’ plays’, so I’d like to give some kudos to my assistant coach for that.”
Coming into the fourth set, the Eskymos broke the match’s usual pattern of trading points to pull away early, and it was a short run from Carney Salo that pushed Esky ahead 10-6.
After a timeout, the Sault took it back on a kill from White, who added another after an ace from Amber Curtis to cut its deficit to one, 10-9.
“I was really proud of my kids for kind of battling and not really getting in their heads,” Muwaski said. “(Escanaba) showed up and started to get a run, and I thought that we rallied right back and locked in every point.”
Another short Esky run, this time from Anna Smith, moved it back ahead 14-9. The two teams traded points until an Esky return hit the net, and Haller added back-to-back kills to again cut the Sault deficit to one, 17-16.
The story repeated at the end of the set as Haller and White earned back-to-back kills to cut down another Esky lead to one, 23-22.
“Both teams played with a ton of intensity, and I think volleyball is such a sport of energy and momentum,” Muwaski said. “I think that’s why we saw those spurts in point differential. I thought both sides did great, and both sides came to play.”
However, the Eskymos’ Mari Bink dropped one in the Sault’s back corner, and Kamin finished the set with a block.
“Mari Bink pushed to the corner, what, five or six times,” Lambert said. “They just weren’t covering that corner, so she kept aiming for it.”
In the third set, the Eskymos surged from a deficit to lead 24-21 thanks to a five-point run from Bailey Barron, but an Esky ball going into the net and a return landing out of bounds shifted the momentum back to the Blue Devils as they capitalized and won the set 26-24 with two forced errors and an ace.
“(Motivation) wasn’t a problem for us, and that’s one thing I really talk about,” Lambert said. “The mental game. I may exaggerate my numbers a bit, but I tell them 85 to 90 percent of the athletic game they play is mental. If they can stay confident as a team, and play as a team, their body and their athleticism will do the rest. That showed tonight.”
Escanaba travels to Kingsford Tuesday. Sault Ste. Marie visits Petoskey Monday for a quadrangular.
Aces — Barron 2, Salo 2, Smith 1, Charles 1, Stahlboerger 1; kills — Kamin 22, Barron 11, Stahlboerger 8, Smith 5, Bink 4, Lancour 2, Salo 1, Charles 1; blocks — Kamin 2; assists — Charles 18, Salo 16, Bink 12; digs — Barron 13, Salo 10, Lancour 10, Smith 8, Kamin 4, Charles 4, Bink 2, Stahlboerger 1, Korpi 1.
Sault Ste. Marie
Aces — Curtis 5, Jorgensen 3, Burd 3, Haller 1; kills — Haller 24, White 17, Erickson 5, Baker 4, Curtis 4, Burd 1; blocks — Erickson 3, Curtis 3, Baker 2; assists — Burd 43; digs — Jorgensen 33, Haller 20, Curtis 12, Alspa 11, Burd 11, Baker 4.