MOUNTAIN IRON – The Mountain Iron-Buhl volleyball team had to wait many weeks before they could play their first contest of their season. Their first chance to hit the course this season came Thursday night.
Despite the lack of game experience, the young Rangers team came ready to play as they downed visiting Lakeview Christian Academy 3-0 (25-23, 25-7, 25-17).
MI-B started the match with some jitters in the first game as the two teams battled to a 9-9 tie through the first 18 points. LCA then used two Rangers errors and a kill from Gabbie Milroy to take a 12-9 lead, forcing a timeout from MI-B coach Megan Preiner.
The Rangers came back fighting after the short break with back-to-back kills from Jordan Zubich and Hali Savela to make it a one-point game. More MI-B errors stunted the run, however, and back-to-back ace from the Lions’ Emily Wright but LCA up 16-11.
The Rangers began to chip away at the lead scoring five of the next six points during a run that included a pair of kills from Sage Ganyo and an ace from Zoe Bialczak that made it 17-16 LCA. The two teams kept it tight from there until the score read 22-22.
Hoping to get the early advantage, the Rangers took advantage of some Lion miscues to grab a 24-23 lead. On game point, Ganyo took the set from Savela and put down the kill to give MI-B the first set, 25-23.
Set No. 2 was all Rangers as they grabbed an early 8-3 lead to force an LCA timeout. Three straight MI-B errors cut the deficit to just two, but the Rangers found a way to fire on all cylinders from here.
On the serve of freshman Suzy Aubrey, the Rangers took the next seven points to go up 15-6. LCA made it 15-7 on a Rangers error but that ended up being the last Lions point of the set. MI-B rallied for the final 10 points of the set using kills from Zubich and ace serves from Gabby Lira to close things out.
Now up 2-0, the Rangers continued to execute their game plan successfully to close out the match. While the Lions hung around for a while, kills from Zubich, Ganyo and Paris Pontinen, as well as aces from Savela and Aubrey helped the Rangers end the third set 25-17 and the match in a 3-0 sweep.
Pontinen led the Rangers in kills with seven. Zubich added five more. Savela finished the night with 16 set assists. Lira led in ace serves with four and digs with 13. Ganyo added three more ace serves to the Rangers total.
MI-B head coach Megan Preiner said after the game that it was a relief for her team to finally get on the court for their first game.
“The girls were just really excited to come out here tonight and finally play a game,” Preiner said. “We were a little slow in the beginning but that comes with the first game jitters. We could’ve come out with a little quicker pace but for the first game, I thought we got rid of those jitters pretty well in the second and third. Once those were gone, they came out with more fire and intensity and really took care of business.”
More important for MI-B were seniors Pontinen and Sidney Mattila, who finally got to hit the court for their final volleyball season.
“All the girls are excited for them, myself included. The seniors really had a sigh of relief to actually be able to participate tonight when we didn’t know how things would look at the beginning of the season. Getting to get out and play in their senior season is great for them.”
With only a few players on the team recording varsity minutes last season, the 2020 Rangers are a young team and Preiner said their first game was the perfect time to see what worked best.
“We only have two or three girls out here who played varsity last year and everyone else is a new face with no experience at this level. So we’re trying a bunch of different things out and seeing what’s working and what wasn’t. Nothing is going to be set in stone after the first game, but it was definitely a good start.”
Another strong point for MI-B in their opening was serving, something Preiner says was a focal point at practice.
“We’ve really spent a lot of time on serving and avoiding those bad serves. We told the girls to take their practice routine for serving and use it during games. Think about serving over and in every time and keep a routine down. There were a lot of good service aces tonight, so I think our serve game has definitely improved from where we started.”
Looking ahead to Northeast Range on Monday, Preiner says her team has to kick it up a notch now that they’re finally able to play games.
“We have one day of practice before we see them on Monday, so the girls know they have to take care of business and kick up the enthusiasm. With this first game behind them, I hope they’re ready to dive in and realize that it’s crunch time.”
Northeast Range 2
At Babbitt, Northeast Range and Chisholm went toe to toe Thursday with the Bluestreaks eventually coming out on top, 3-2 (25-21, 23-25, 25-17, 20-25, 15-11).
Abby Thompson led the way for Chisholm with 25 kills, six blocks and 20 digs, while Jordan Temple engineered the offense with 39 set assists, 19 digs and four kills. Lola Huhta added 17 digs and 11 kills and Kaija Gams chipped in with 13 digs and three kills.
The Nighthawks were paced by Maizy Sundblad with 36 set assists, Hannah Reichensperger with 31 kills, 25 digs and five blocks and Jenna Smith with 25 digs. Audrey Anderson also chipped on with 17 digs.
Northeast Range plays at Mountain Iron-Buhl Monday, while Chisholm plays at Mesabi East Tuesday.