Prep volleyball; Eskymos dig up Miners

ESCANABA – The Escanaba Eskymos may have proved Tuesday evening that offense really is the best defense.

Escanaba and Negaunee both displayed great defense on the volleyball court as both teams appeared evenly matched, but Esky’s power hitting and consistent game may have been the difference in a 3-0 (25-15, 25-21, 25-19) victory.

“They just played with more momentum and excitement than us tonight,” said Negaunee coach Annette Gleason of the Eskymos. “I that that kind of hurt us. They’re a great hitting team and they’ve improved since we last saw them.”

The Eskymos showed a lot of heart and a penchant for timely runs as well. They held a tentative 19-17 lead late in the first set before Kami Fritz reeled off a six point service run to put that one in the books. Three Miners’ hitting errors during that run were key.

Negaunee seemed to have control in the second set as it led 15-9 and 18-12, but the undaunted Eskymos fought back. Down 21-17 late, Ashley Cook came up to serve and she didn’t relinquish the ball, reeling off an 8-0 service run that the Miners were powerless to stop, despite a couple of long points that could have gone either way.

The run may have been a backbreaker for Negaunee, as the Miners headed into the third set down 2-0.

Gleason said her defense certainly wasn’t to blame.

“Our defense was really great, especially our right side back,” she said. “Rosalie Anderson always plays great defense for us. We just need to work on hitting and completing the play. We struggled with communication and that’s something we can always work on.”

On the other side of the net, Escanaba’s Ashley Cook had another outstanding game, getting her hands on nearly every ball that came her way. Cook came up with 14 digs, though it certainly seemed like more, and three aces.

“I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a thousand times. Ashley is probably one of the best libero’s I’ve seen in the U.P., she touches every ball,” said Esky coach Teresa Heidt.

The Miners started the third set strong but it didn’t take long for the Eskymos to overwhelm. Syd Gafner got things rolling with back-to-back aces as Escanaba went on a 10-2 run to give them an 11-5 lead that would not be relinquished. Escanaba led late 20-14 but the Miners fought till the finish, scoring five of the set’s final 10 points. Cook again closed the game out with a 3-0 service run.

Negaunee was led by Aubrey Nyman’s five kills. Anderson added four kills with an ace and a block. Jayda Johnson came up with seven digs and seven assists and Hannah Laurila had six digs and five assists.

The victory ended a four game losing streak for the Eskymos (4-4). Fritz led Escanaba with seven kills and three solo blocks. Jade Heliin had four kills, Alexa Langsford had 11 assists and Brittany Bruce added five digs.

“We’ve been working on our serving,” said Heidt of the Eskymos reason for success. “It’s always been a factor for us – giving points away. So we improved our serving and our communication, and we’ve been consistent. Our consistency tonight was right on top.”

Escanaba hosts Gladstone Thursday evening.