HIBBING — As the Hibbing Community College volleyball team heads into the second half of their conference schedule, the Cardinals are sitting in fifth place in the Northern Division.
Hibbing is actually tied with Mesabi Range with 3-3 marks, but the Lady Norse hold the tiebreaker with a 3-2 win over the Cardinals on Sept. 1.
If Hibbing wants any shot at the postseason, then it must get revenge on Mesabi Range, and that opportunity occurs today when the two teams meet in an MCAC Northern Division contest, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in William Wirtanen Gymnasium.
Needless to say, it’s an important match for both teams if they want postseason aspirations.
“Because they beat us the last time, we want to tie up the series, we need to get a win over them, otherwise, with the games being so close for every team, there’s no way to predict anything,” Hibbing coach Kasey Palmer said. “A win would help us out quite a bit.”
Mesabi Range coach Sara Matuszak also knows the importance of this match.
“We’re both fighting to make it into the top four and get into the regional playoffs, so it’s a big match for both of us,” Matuszak said. “They started out a little rough, losing in five to several teams, but now, they’re right in the mix.
“We beat them in five, but that was a Hail Mary. We had taken the first two sets, then they took the next two. They had the momentum going, so we were fortunate enough to get that momentum swing. I anticipate that it’s going to be a battle.”
How does Hibbing go about turning that 3-2 loss around?
“None of us were happy after that game,” Palmer said. “We don’t think we should have lost in five. This week, we watched some films and watched some of the things we could have worked on.
“They’ve made a few lineup changes, different setters, things like that. We’re not quite sure what to expect because it’s been changing so much. We’re prepared for whatever lineup they give us. We will come out swinging.”
Matuszak has been tinkering with her lineup, mostly due to an injury, but she knows the Cardinals are a tough defensive team, so she’ll try her best to maneuver around that part of the game.
“Defensively, they are sound,” Matuszak said. “They pick everything up. We’ll have to run a tougher offense than we have been in order to beat that. I’ve been mixing it up to hide some of our flaws and maximize our strengths.”
The Cardinals will need that same kind of defensive effort to turn that outcome around.
“We get into some bad stretches where we can’t pass, and we can’t put the ball away,” Palmer said. “We revert to tipping. We’ll come out today, and hopefully, keep our offense rolling and not play down to a slower game.
“We play well against faster teams. We step up. With teams that are slower, we react slower. We’re hoping to keep our momentum going and stay on the offensive the whole game.”
Hibbing only has one player, Athena Dunham, that knows about the rivalry between the two schools, but Palmer, who knows all about it herself, is keeping that part of the contest a little low key.
“We haven’t focused on the rivalry part of it,” Palmer said. “What we’ve focused on is that right now, we’re in fifth because they have one win on us. Our conference records are the same, but because they beat us, that’s why they’re above us.
“In order for us to have a chance of being in that top four, we have to come out of it with a win to tie it up.”
It could be another five-set nail-biter.
“We match up well with them,” Matuszak said. “I have to tip my hat to their defense. They have us beat there, so we need a strong offense to win.”