Eskymos have victorious return
ESCANABA — If anyone thought the Escanaba volleyball team’s involuntary, two-week vacation would disrupt its play, they were proven wrong here Tuesday as the Eskymos finished off Stephenson in straight sets 3-0 (25-21, 25-13, 25-14).
“Three and a half weeks off, and we had no idea what was going to happen,” Eskymos coach Adam Lambert said. “I thought we were going to have some rust, but apparently, I ran them pretty hard the last few practices. They came out looking pretty good today.”
The Eagles were closest to toppling the Eskymos in the first set. Stephenson pulled ahead 9-8, but a short run from Esky’s Katelyn Stahlboerger — including an ace and a spike from Nicole Kamin — moved the Eskymos ahead 12-9.
“Kamin came out and finally found the floor real hard,” Lambert said. “Stahlboerger, the other middle, hit the corner deep and hard at one point — that was amazing.”
An Eskymos’ ball into the net made it 12-10, but they slowly pulled away from the Eagles.
Stephenson’s Toree Kuntze reduced its deficit to 16-13 with a tip over, but the Eskymos quickly added four more to add to their advantage, 20-13.
“Paige Cappaert, our middle, did really well adjusting to reading her,” Eagles coach Kristi Miller said. “She’s also the setter, and she did really well getting to all the sets off that. Both Toree Kuntze and she did really well serving as well — serving to specific points to throw off their defense. Kassidy Havelka, our middle-back, she was all over the court picking up stuff. She did a phenomenal job getting to balls that most girls would’ve thought were unplayable.”
The Eagles then found their rhythm, going on a 7-3 run to come within three, 23-20, but Kamin smashed two in to earn the set 25-21.
Esky took control early in the second set but didn’t pull ahead until a short run and ace from Mari Bink extended its lead to 17-8.
“Serving was right on,” Lambert said. “I think we were 90-percent plus as a team tonight, and we even got some jump serves in. They were hitting our middles really well in the sets, which is what we’ve been working on. We had some quick pushes over on two, which is the corners we were shooting for. They played great, and I was able to get everyone in. It was just a great performance from Escanaba tonight.”
An Eskymos serve into the net gave the Eagles an opportunity, but they were only able to add two before Esky regained possession. Stephenson’s Genaveve Anders aced it to reduce its deficit to 20-13, but it would be the last point the Eagles earned that set as Stahlboerger helped close it with three, back-to-back kills.
The Eagles took an early lead in the third set, set up by an ace from Katrina Kruhmin but weren’t able to hold on.
After an Eskymos serve landed out of bounds, Stahlboerger tipped one over to take it back and went on a five-point run to lead 16-8.
“What I look for as a coach is just team play,” Lambert said. “Individually, athletes are amazing — they really are — but to get them to play as a team sometimes can be difficult. But, they did really well tonight. My mask says I’m all smiles, and underneath the mask, I was all smiles as well. It was a great performance from our team.”
Another out of bounds serve saw the Eagles capitalize and add two more points, but a four-point run from Esky’s Grace Charles — including three kills from Kamin — moved the Eskymos ahead 21-11 to seal the set and the match.
“We are a team working on consistency,” Miller said. “We have some really big highs and some really big lows. When we’re really on offensively, we are getting great streaks, getting a lot of kills, getting good blocks and good touches. We had some lows, and we struggled to get out of them.
“Looking at tonight, Escanaba had some great hitters and some great blockers, and we ended up adjusting to get around those pretty well. I’m really proud of how the girls played.”
Escanaba hosts Sault Ste. Marie Thursday, while Stephenson travels to Mid Peninsula.
“We look forward to that,” Lambert said. “The Sault is always great competition for us. We’ll take a set or two, and maybe, we can take three this time because we’ve really been working hard. We’ll see what they bring. We love to play strong competitive teams.”