AURORA — The Mesabi East volleyball team is seeing what happens when their team chemistry becomes fully realized. Tuesday night, that meant the Giants started strong and never let up in a 3-0 (25-13, 25-13, 25-17) sweep of the visiting International Falls Broncos.
Taking advantage of strong serving, solid defense at the net and International Falls’ errors, Mesabi East looked like a well-oiled machine from start to finish.
Junior Kora Forsline got things started for the Giants with a block at the net to earn the teams first point. The Broncos struggled out of the gate to run their offense, allowing Mesabi East to score consistently on their miscues.
Leading 6-3, junior Lindsey Baribeau served up an ace to stretch the lead to four, then a point later served up another one to make it a 9-3 game, forcing an International Falls timeout.
The Broncos continued to struggle out of the break, however, as a varied offensive attack from Baribeau, Forsline, Aaliyah Sahr and Maija Hill kept International Falls off guard. Another Baribeau kill later in the set gave the Giants a 19-7 lead, forcing the second Broncos timeout of the set.
The Giants continued the balanced offense out of the break and took the first set 25-13 for the early advantage.
The second set followed a similar path as the first. Baribeau continued to put down big points for the Giants, but International Falls’ Olivia Thostenson began swinging with success to help keep her team in the game. Leading 8-3, Kadyn Kangas served up an ace and Sahr later put down a kill to push the tempo in favor of the Giants.
Leading 12-5, Baribeau served up two more aces and Hill put down a kill to stretch the lead to 10, 15-5. While the Broncos continued to utilize the height of Thostenson as much as possible, it wasn’t enough as the Giants took the second set by the same score as the first, 25-13.
International Falls put forth their best effort early in the third set, as they fought to an even 6-6 through the first 12 points. The Broncos errors kept popping back up, however.
Miscommunications on the serve of Mesabi East’s Kaitlynn James, as well as a pair of errors from International Falls gave Mesabi East a 10-6 lead, forcing another Broncos timeout.
James served up another ace coming out of the break, giving the Giants a healthy lead that they were able to maintain for most of the final set.
The gap closed to just three with Mesabi East leading 17-13, Baribeau gave her team another jolt of offense with another kill. The Broncos took advantage of a pair of Giants errors to get within two, but the varied offense from Mesabi East carried them across the finish line, winning the final set 25-17, and the match 3-0.
Baribeau led the way for the Giants in kills with eight to go along with her five ace serves, three blocks and six digs. James paced the team in set assists with 19 to go with her four ace serves. Steph Zimmer and Sahr added nine digs apiece in the win.
Seeing her squad put together a complete game through all three sets, Giants head coach Sara Baribeau said her team’s biggest strength Tuesday night was communication.
“I think we had really good chemistry tonight,” Baribeau said. “The girls played solid together and communicated well. You could hear them talking on the court and they were on top of that all night and I think our girls are ready to take it to the next level with that communication and harmony between everyone on the court.”
Baribeau gave credit to the Broncos’ serve receive and passing, saying it forced her team to play an aggressive net game.
“They passed really well and we had to go on the attack because of how well they set up their serve receive. We told our girls to keep swinging. Even when International Falls got some of our early tips, we’d follow that up with more hard swings and I think it kept them on their heels a bit.”
Sara Baribeau says the varied offensive attack is a strength for her team, as many teams can’t afford to just cover Lindsey Baribeau with the other threats they have in waiting.
“We have a lot of good hitters and I feel like we can shoot the ball out to someone at any moment for a hit. Lindsey plays aggressive and she calls it aggressive so that makes our girls have to play aggressive with her. She had a good night and some solid hits for us but I’m confident in our setters in how they can really give it to anybody on the court for a hit.”
One of the main concerns for the Giants when the season began was putting together a solid game plan on very little practice time. A week since their last played game, Baribeau says the long stretch of practices was a tremendous boon for her squad.
“We had three games in a row last week, Friday, Monday and Tuesday and then we had a week's worth of practice to pick apart all of those games. We worked on so many different elements and I would love to be able to have some do-overs of those early games because I think we’re executing those things we worked on at a much higher level.”
Hosting North Woods on Thursday, Baribeau hopes her team moves forward with the balanced offensive attack.
“I want to see more of that dynamic hitting from all the girls. I don’t think the other teams are going to be able to just watch one hitter, they’ll have to look out for several of them.”
Mesabi East improves to 2-2 with the win. Thursday’s contest is set for 7 p.m. in Aurora.
Littlefork-Big Falls 0
At Ely, the Timberwolves used a strong night from hitter McKenna Coughlin to guide them past visiting Littlefork-Big Falls (25-20, 25-9, 25-18).
Coughlin led the team in kills with 15 to go with her two ace serves. Rachel Coughlin backed her up with nine kills, five digs and three aces.
Katrina Seliskar commanded the floor with 36 set assists while Raven Sainio and Kate Coughlin added five kills apiece.
Ely (3-0) will travel to Silver Bay next Tuesday for a road contest.
Deer River 0
At Coleraine, Claire Vekich put down 13 kills to lead the Raiders past visiting Deer River, 3-0 (25-5, 25-13, 25-11).
Vekich added four blocks and five ace serves to her stat line. Lexi Hammer finished with 19 set assists.
Kansa Reed led in digs with nine and served up four aces of her own. Bri Miller led the team in aces with six.
Greenway (4-0) will travel to Hibbing on Thursday.