CHISHOLM — The Chisholm volleyball team found success early and often Tuesday in their season opener against Eveleth-Gilbert, downing the Golden Bears 3-0 (25-16, 25-22, 25-16).
The Bluestreaks relied on the arm of senior middle hitter Abby Thompson, whose all-court game kept Chisholm in front from the get-go.
The Golden Bears put up a double block on Thompson when she hit up the middle, but struggled to find an answer on the outside or when she hit from the back row. When all was said and done, Thompson finished the evening with 18 kills for the home team.
Chisholm started fast and didn’t let up for some time. Racing out to an 11-2 lead, the ‘Streaks grabbed early kills from Thompson and Ava Silvestrini and aces from Jordan Temple and Emma DuChamp.
Following an Eveleth-Gilbert timeout from coach Beth Bittmann, the Bears began chipping away at the deficit, capitalizing on Chisholm errors and grabbing kills from Brooke Thyen and Emily Kemp. Slowly, but surely, the Bears got as close as two points, trailing 16-14, but Chisholm grabbed nine of the last 11 points to close out the first set, 25-16.
“That’s what we did in our first game when we played Nashwauk,” Bittmann said about trying to come back from an early deficit. “You dig a hole that big and try to come back, you’re going to make it tough for yourself to win those games.”
Chisholm head coach Pam Pioske said her squad might have had some first-game jitters come out when E-G managed to climb their way back in.
“You get nervous and start playing safe,” Pioske said. “Then your arm swing changes and you just make errors you weren’t making before. We have to work on those mistakes and not allow other teams to climb back in when we’re up big.”
Eveleth-Gilbert regrouped in the second as the two teams battled point for point throughout. The ‘Streaks continued to rely on the arm of Thompson while the Bears tried to attack the middle when Thompson played through the back row.
Through 36 points, the two teams found themselves dead even, 18-18. From their, some smart tips at the net, along with another Thompson kill tilted things in Chisholm’s favor. Trailing 23-20, E-G took another timeout and closed the deficit to one after the break, but the ‘Streaks grabbed the final two points and closed things out, 25-23, on a kill from Megan Danielson.
The start of the third game looked much like the first as the Bluestreaks started out on a 9-2 run to take the early lead. While the Golden Bears had opportunities, losing points on serve receive and bad passes only made matters worse. While the Chisholm lead grew, Bittmann said there were still some positives her team could take away.
“Our girls went up against some big hitters in the front row and didn’t take it easy on them. They knew they had to take on some tough girls but they swung away at the net. They were fearless in that regard tonight.”
Thompson and Silvestrini finished strong for the ‘Streaks as they helped maintain their early lead on their way to taking the third set 25-16, and the match 3-0.”
Getting a season-opening win under their belt, the Bluestreaks still have plenty to work on according to Pioske.
“We have to work on our set plays a little bit more,” Pioske said. “Defensively, I thought we were excellent. Kaija [Grams], our libero was great tonight on her serve receive and her digs. Our other defensive specialist Gabi [Walters] was also great for us in that back row. We were great on defense, but I think we need some more time running through the plays on offense so things go a little smoother.”
For the Bears, Bittmann said a lot of her team’s struggles are coming from the mental side of the game.
“It’s turning out to be that kind of game for us,” Bittmann said. “Mentally, you can tell when we decide to show up and when we decide to not show up. Against Nashwauk, we started slow mentally but finished strong and tonight we couldn’t find any momentum. Hopefully we can develop some consistency and elevate our play a bit.”
On the play of Thompson, both coaches had high praise for the talented senior hitter.
“She’s a powerful hitter,” Bittmann said. “She hits everywhere, front row and back row and they’re not soft hits. I thought our girls did a nice job doubling up on her but she’s so powerful and she was definitely a big factor in their win tonight.”
Pioske added that Thompson’s all-court game proved key Tuesday night and will continue to be valuable as the season goes on.
“If we need to use her as our hitter, she’ll hit from just about anywhere,” Pioske said. “One of the reasons I like to play her all the way around the rotation is because she has that ability to hit anywhere when we need her to.”
Falling to 0-2 to start their season, the Bears will look ahead to Tuesday when they host their first game against Wrenshall.
“It’ll be nice to be on our own court for once,” Bittmann said. “I know we have a long stretch after next week where we’re on the road a lot, but we finish the season with a lot of home games. Hopefully we can step it up mentally at home and come out strong there.”
For Chisholm, taking on the Bears early in the season should be key to improving their games, according to Pioske.
“Eveleth-Gilbert is a good team,” the coach said. “They have some height in the front row and some really good blockers. That’s tough for us to work on in practice unless our girls go against Abby but Eveleth’s block in the middle is definitely one of their biggest strong points so I’m happy we could work through that in the first game.”
Northeast Range 0
At Babbitt, the Timberwolves outplayed a struggling Northeast Range team Tuesday and came away with a 3-0 (25-15, 25-17, 25-10) road victory.
McKenna Coughlin led Ely with nine kills, three digs, five ace serves and one block. Rachel Coughlin added seven kills, five ace serves, four blocks and a pair of digs. Katrina Seliskar engineered the win with 26 set assists, three digs and one block. Raven Sainio put down five kills and Madeline Kallberg tallied seven ace serves and three kills.
The Nighthawks, meanwhile, got 10 set assists from Natalie Nelmark and eight kills and nine digs from Hannah Reichensperger.
Looking back at the match, head coach Jodi Rogers-Reichensperger said, “We know what we need to work on to hopefully to make some gains.’’
At Coleraine, the arm of Claire Vekich came up big for the Greenway volleyball team Tuesday as they swept Aitkin 3-0 (25-23, 25-18, 25-17) to move to 2-0 on the season.
Vekich led the team in kills with 25. Kaisa Reed finished with nine kills of her own and added three ace serves. Lexi Hammer commanded the floor for the Raiders with 39 set assists.
The Gobblers were led by Lydia Fellerman with 12 kills, two blocks and eight digs. Alli Ehnstrom finished with 27 set assists and Noelle Jones tallied four kills and four blocks.
Greenway will travel to Hermantown on Thursday for a date with the Hawks.