VIRGINIA — Trailing 2-0 after two sets Thursday night, the Chisholm volleyball team looked about ready to pack their bags and go home.
But things changed in the third set, according to head coach Pam Pioske. The Bluestreaks found their form and started to fight back. When all was said and done, Chisholm took the final three sets to defeat Virginia, 3-2 (21-25, 23-25, 25-20, 25-22, 15-7).
Just one set away from a loss, Pioske’s message to her team before the third set was simple: Find a way to compete.
“I told them we have to stop going out there just to play the game,” Pioske said. “We have to go out there and compete and we have to want to win these tough matches. Our last couple of games, it feels like we’ve just been going through the motions so I think going down two sets, it finally clicked for them. They didn’t want to lose in three so they stepped it up, played better, served better and kept themselves in it.”
The Bluestreaks main goal defensively was to put up a strong block on Virginia senior Lexiss Trygg, as well as keep the ball out of her hands, as well as the hands of left side junior Rian Aune. In the beginning, the Devils went to those options and found success.
Maya Carlson served up an ace on the first point of the match for Virginia. Following a Chisholm hitting error, back-to-back kills from Trygg and Aune put Virginia up 4-0.
The ‘Streaks kept things close through 16 points, tied with the Devils 8-8, but Virginia took 10 of the next 14 points to take a commanding lead in the set, 18-12.
Following a Chisholm timeout, Lola Huhta put down a kill to try to give her squad some momentum, but Virginia managed to hang on to their lead and put things away. Up 24-21, another kill from Aune ended the set, giving Virginia the early 1-0 lead.
The two squads played a much tighter second set with neither team grabbing a lead larger than four points. Up 10-7, Chisholm watched Virginia take six of the next eight points in a stretch that ended with a Trygg kill, an Aune ace and another tip from Trygg to put the Devils up 13-12, forcing a timeout from Pioske.
Carlson continued to aid the Virginia cause after the timeout, putting down a block and a kill in the next stretch of points to give Virginia a 17-13 lead. The ‘Streaks eventually tied things up at 20 apiece, thanks to the efforts of senior middle Abby Thompson, but more offense from Trygg helped the Blue Devils close out the second, 25-23.
Chisholm finally managed to turn things around in the third set and ran up the score early to grab a comfortable lead. Tied at two, Chisholm rattled off five in a row thanks to a kill from Kaija Gams, an ace from Emma DuChamp, and a string of Virginia errors that helped break the set open for the ‘Streaks.
The Bluestreaks then turned to their ace Thompson to put down some hard kills that stretched the lead out to seven, 16-9. A couple points later leading 19-11, a big block from Thompson gave them a nine-point lead, five points from taking the set.
Virginia climbed their way back into the set, thanks to kills from Carlson and Trygg, but Chisholm was able to close it out 25-20 to take the third set.
The beginning of the fourth set was all Chisholm. Thompson was putting down kill after kill and got some strong backup from Huhta as the ‘Streaks raced out to a 16-5 lead to start the set.
Slowly, but surely, Virginia chipped away at that lead. A few Chisholm errors as well as a kill from Aune and a pair of kills and a block from Trygg made it 18-13 Chisholm, their lead more than cut in half.
Jade Wolfram put down a kill for the ‘Streaks but a couple more errors from Chisholm followed by a Trygg block, a Trygg tip and an Aune ace made it 19-18 Chisholm.
That’s as close as Virginia could get it, however, as Chisholm grabbed six of the last 10, capping things off with a Thompson kill to take the set, 25-22.
Trygg and Thompson continued to do battle in the fifth set, but it was errors that ultimately did the Blue Devils in to close out the match. Up 9-5 following a kill from Amya Dobis-Fontaine, the Bluestreaks scored three of their last six points on Virginia hitting errors, including their final two to take the set 15-7 and the match 3-2.
Thompson led the ‘Streaks in kills with 23 and added four blocks and 14 digs to her stat line. Huhta finished with six kills and 14 digs. Gams led in digs with 16. Jordan Temple put up 38 set assists and tallied 13 digs. Gabby Walters finished with 10 digs.
On their team’s comeback after dropping the first two sets, Pioske said being able to execute their game plan on Trygg and Aune was paramount to their success.
“We were worried about Trygg. She can hit from just about anywhere and Aune too is really strong on that left side. We even tried to serve it away from them if we could. So we wanted to block those two and just force their back row players to make plays.”
Watching Virginia make comebacks in the third and fourth sets, Pioske said some crucial timeouts for her squad helped bring Chisholm back into focus.
“You can tell when the girls start getting worried. You see a team like Virginia start climbing back and you start thinking about your errors more and stop focusing on winning the next point. We took some late timeouts to get their minds back into things and they were able to stop worrying as much.”
Winning their second five-set match in a row. Pioske says their win against Cherry earlier in the week and Thursday’s win against Virginia proved something to her.
“It showed me that they’re ready to compete this year. We just need to figure out how to start as strong as we finish. It’s happened twice now this week so hopefully, eventually, we can come out strong in the first game, play tough, get it in gear and get things done.”
Chisholm (4-0) will travel to Eveleth-Gilbert on Monday.
At Ely, the Timberwolves had a well-rounded offensive attack on their way to a 3-0 (25-17, 25-20, 26-24) win over Cherry Thursday night.
McKenna Coughlin finished with 10 kills and four blocks. Kate Coughlin added seven kills, six digs and six ace serves.
Madeline Kallberg had seven kills and six digs while Rachel Coughlin finished six kills and six digs. Katrina Seliskar made the calls at setter and finished with 30 set assists on the night.
Ely (4-0) will travel to Silver Bay on Tuesday.