Prep volleyball: Eskymos hold off Emeralds

ESCANABA – Things may have become a little hectic at times, but the Escanaba volleyball team found a way to present Christa Erickson with her first coaching victory Monday night, topping the Manistique Emeralds 3-1 (20-25, 25-15, 25-23, 25-20).

The victory came on the heels of Saturday’s Sault Ste. Marie Invitational, where the Eskymos didn’t win any matches, but took a set each from Petoskey, Brimley and Houghton.

“After Saturday’s tournament we told the kids they can’t be upset about what they did,” said Erickson. “We were able to win a set against three real strong teams, which I think helped us tonight. This is a great confidence builder for our girls.”

Esky gained double-digit leads in each of the two last sets.

Manistique, however, didn’t just go away.

The Eskymos held a seemingly comfortable 19-9 advantage in Game 3, forcing Manistique to use a time-out.

Manistique then got a side-out and sophomore setter Sydney Chartier followed with seven straight service points, helping the Emeralds climb within 19-17.

The Emeralds crept even closer (24-23), but were unable to catch Esky.

Esky then build a 19-7 advantage in Game 4, with five-point service runs by junior Jessica Gill and senior Jade Heliin helping the Eskymos build that cushion.

Manistique then went on a 9-2 run, pulling with 21-16. Esky, however, didn’t allow the Emeralds to get any closer.

“Being able to capitalize when you have a lead is important, and tonight we did that,” said Erickson. “The girls did a good job staying calm when Manistique went on its runs. We told the girls they have to play like they’re ahead when they are ahead.”

In Game 4, Gill’s service run helped the Eskymos to gain an 8-1 advantage and Heliin’s run made it 19-7.

“In a situation like this you try to start Game 4 strong and hope you can end it there,” said Erickson. “When you’re up two games to one, you don’t want to go to a fifth game. Anything can happen if you go to a Game 5.”

A block by sophomore middle hitter/blocker Lexi Carlson put the Emeralds ahead to stay (20-19) in the opener.

Carlson also had a tip for a kill in the second set, which put Manistique up 7-5.

But the Eskymos then surged ahead to stay, gaining a 10-7 cushion on an ace by Gill.

Gill finished with five aces, including one to start the second set, for the Eskymos who host Iron Mountain tonight.

“We’re like a roller coaster, up and down,” said Emeralds’ coach Amy Nixon. “I was very happy with our play when we were doing things right. We made heck of a comeback in Game 3, which I was very pleased with. Then, they got a couple nice runs in Game 4 and we started our comeback too late. We’re an attacking team. Escanaba, I felt, gave us a lot of freeballs which seemed to throw us off.”

Junior outside hitter Maggie Morrison led the Emeralds with 10 kills, an ace, an assist and 21 digs. Senior setter Vanessa McNamara added six kills, an ace and 12 assists. Junior outside hitter collected four kills and 13 digs. Senior left-side hitter Morgan Kangas had 15 digs and Chartier finished with four assists, an ace and 14 digs.

“The girls are still getting used to playing with each other,” said Nixon. “They hesitated when they weren’t talking to each other. We have only one starter back from last year. We need to get some game experience. Once we do that, I think we’ll come around.”

The Emeralds, who won the jayvee match (25-20, 25-17), travel to Ishpeming Thursday.