HIBBING — Vermilion Community College volleyball coach Krystal Brodeen wasn’t even sure if she was going to have a team this year, but on Aug. 12, just days before practice opened, the word came down that the Ironwomen were going to field a team.
With only one game under its belt, compared to four for Hibbing, Vermilion was going to take the stage in its first MCAC Northern Division clash with the Cardinals.
If Brodeen had any concerns about her teams’ play, they put that to rest as the Ironwomen came away with a 3-2, 21-25, 25-21, 23-25, 25-21, 15-8 victory over Hibbing Wednesday at Cardinal Gymnasium.
Brodeen liked the way her team approached their first division match.
“We came into it with a vengeance,” Brodeen said. “Vermilion has always been counted out, and known at the bottom of the rankings. I’ve got a special group of girls this year. They’re out for it.
“They came in prepared. We haven’t played in a gym other than ours yet, so our main thing was getting acclimated to a new court, and getting into our groove.”
The Cardinals grabbed the early lead in set one and took a 1-0 lead in the match, but Vermilion came back and tied it at 1-1.
Hibbing rallied from a deficit in set three to take a 2-1 lead, and should have had all of the momentum heading into set four.
That didn’t materialize as the Cardinals committed one too many errors, especially service errors, and couldn’t close the door on the Ironwomen.
“We lost it with our serving,” Palmer said. ““We messed up five or six serves. We had mental errors, bad passing and not adjusting and transitioning. We couldn’t seem to get the ball over the net. They were digging our balls, so we tried to go to some tipping.
“We couldn’t tip over the block. We tipped it into the net at times. We haven’t figured out when to push the ball, or see where the defense is. We’re not doing a good job of talking to each other, telling them where the holes are either.”
In game five, Hibbing had a chance to take the early lead, but again, the Cardinals didn’t capitalize on its chances.
Vermilion, on the other hand, took advantage of several Hibbing unforced errors, including three in a row at 6-6, which put the Ironwomen ahead 9-6.
The Cardinals never recovered and that dropped the Cardinals’ record to 1-6 in five-set games over the past two seasons, including a five-set loss to Mesabi Range last week.
“It's a mental thing,” Palmer said. “We had one bad pass, one mistake, then everybody kind of shut down. We haven’t been able to reach over that one mental mistake, put it behind us and go on to the next play. Maybe the stress gets to them. I’m not sure.”
The future is uncertain, but at least Brodeen knows this team has what it takes to be competitive.
“That first week was a lot of tough conversations,” Brodeen said. “We had to sit down and ask them questions to get over the drama, and the things you experience in the first couple of weeks of the season.
“That shot us forward. We're ready to compete.”