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Cerma earns 16 kills, Eskymos avenge early-season loss to Negaunee

Escanaba exchange student Andrea Cerma (13) volleys the ball over the net during a match against Negaunee on Sept. 12, 2023 at Escanaba High School.

ESCANABA — After claiming the first two sets, Escanaba volleyball found itself fighting in a race to 15 points in the fifth set against Negaunee.

With the Eskymos leading the final stanza 10-7, the Miners’ kill attempt sailed out of bounds and one-hopped into a lightswitch on the nearby wall. The force of the hit collided with a switch and caused half of Esky’s gymnasium to become submerged in darkness.

Moments later, Esky foreign exchange student Andrea Cerma killed the lights on Negaunee’s comeback try when her swing bounced off Negaunee players and into the stands for a 25-17, 27-25, 23-25, 16-25, 15-11 Eskymo win on Tuesday.

“It’s fun to go by sets, but it’s a little hard on the heart,” Esky coach Adam Lambert said. “Sometimes we give up or we think that we’re not going to do something, so we kind of mentally just check out. I think the girls stuck with it tonight.”

Esky came out like a ball of fire to start the fifth frame, jumping to a 7-3 lead in the frame behind two kills from Cerma and a kill from Sophie Lehto after a diving dig from Zoe Wilson which left her right knee bloodied after the match. After the Miners used a timeout, the Eskymo lead dwindled to two points. A 3-0 run pushed the home team’s advantage to 10-5.

After the arena-darkening hit from Negaunee, Lehto earned an ace to force another Miners timeout. The road team rattled off three-straight points to pull to 12-10, but a kill from Katie Lamb and back-to-back kills from Cerma sealed the Eskymo win.

“We really wanted it,” Wilson said. “We’ve had a rough start to the season and we’re finally working together now. (The win) felt really good.”

Esky jumped out to a quick advantage in the match’s opening frame thanks in large to a nine-point service run from Aleaha Lambert to open a 13-2 lead. The Miners never recovered as the home team claimed a 25-17 set win.

Tuesday’s second frame, however, proved to be different. The stanza saw 13 ties and seven lead changes, but after an Eskymo block and a Negaunee unable to get the ball over the net on its third swing, the Eskymo claimed a 27-25 set victory.

With a 2-0 match lead, the Eskymo’s began to flounder in set three. Esky fell behind 11-7 early, yet continually battled to fight back to pull within one. While the Eskymos continued to battle to pull within one, they never capitalized on an opportunity to run away with the frame. Down 24-23, Neagunee’s kill attempt proved to be too much to handle, ultimately setting the stage for the miners’ rally to force a fifth set.

“It seemed like in the middle sets there they wanted more than we did,” Lambert said of Negaunee’s effort. “We had a lot of mistakes.”

Cerma led the Eskyoms with 16 digs and added 23 assists, 10 digs and an ace.

“It seems like every game or every practice she pulls out some other golden nugget that I didn’t know she could do,” Lambert said of Cerma. ” So as the season progresses, we’re just finding more things that we’re gonna utilize with her talent. She plays year-round in Italy. That’s her only sport. (Cerma’s) been fun to have in the Eskymo program.”

Carley McInerney led the Eskymos with 22 digs. Clare Braun led the team with 34 assists and added 14 digs. Lehto finished with 11 kills, one dig and one ace. Wilson finished with 10 digs. Aleaha Lambert tallied 11 digs, nine kills and a trio of aces. Harlee Coolman produced 18 digs and five kills. Lamb finished with nine kills. Ava Stalboerger added three kills, a pair of aces and a dig. Grayson LaMarche totaled six kills. Lily Nelson finished with four kills.

“I think we’re playing really good together,” Lehto said. “Our team kind of meshes together. There’s really no problems with our team chemistry.”

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