CHERRY -- The Tigers got down 1-0 in their season-opening match against Northeast Range, but Cherry came storming back to score a 3-1 (23-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-14) victory.
After struggling out of the gate, outside hitter Courtney Sajdak, setter Lauren Staples and middle hitter Oryann Trucano brought the Tigers back.
Sajdak collected 12 kills and three ace serves along the way as she paced the team’s offense.
“She did a really great job passing,’’ said Cherry head coach LeAnn Adkisson. “She just all around stepped up and is a good all-around player. She’s got a lot of confidence and it shows on the court.’’
Adkisson expected to see that from Sajdak heading into the season.
“At practice she’s a big leader so I guess I expected the same in the game. She definitely showed me that she wants to work hard and be here. She wants to win.’’
After falling behind 1-0, Cherry jumped out to 5-0 and 9-4 leads in game two. However, Northeast Range rallied behind Hannah Reichensperger and Natalie Nelmark to take a 14-11 lead.
After a Cherry timeout, though, Jessa Schroetter recorded an ace and a kill and Sajdak put down a kill to give the Tigers a 17-15 lead, a lead they would not relinquish again. A short time later, Thea Besch’s kill and an unreturnable serve by Trucano propelled the home team to a 25-20 game two win, which tied up the match at 1-1.
Adkisson had some concerns after the first game, and her girls addressed them in game two.
“We definitely need to work on hitting around our blockers. We struggled with that. Blocking for us is also a big struggle. We’ll take some time and work on that.’’
In game three, Trucano and Sajdak helped Cherry out to a 12-3 lead both with their hitting ability and serving.
But Nelmark, Reichensperger and the Nighthawks weren’t about to go away. Northeast Range pulled to within 21-18 before Cherry’s Besch scored a kill and Staples redirected a ball with a tip record the game winner at 25-20.
Adkisson complimented Staples on her strong play. “She’s a solid player. I don’t have to worry about her. I know she’ll go for a ball. I know she’ll get her serve in. She’s a good all-around player, as well.’’
The Tigers made no mistake about winning game four. They jumped out to a 9-0 lead behind the efforts of Staples, Trucano and Sajdak. Reichensperger and Nelmark tried to rally the visitors once again, but the Tigers never let them get closer than 10 points down the stretch to secure the win.
Northeast Range head coach Jodi Rogers-Reichensperger did well on defense despite basically not even practicing it. “No one’s afraid of the ball. They’re taking balls, they’re ready to hit, they're ready to dig. I’m pleased with that.’’
The Nighthawks were looking for a setter before the season began and tried something new with their two middles Nelmark and Reichensperger on Monday night.
The coach said those two were sharing the setting duties, which was “fluid’’ and “fun to watch.’’ However, she said that can’t be sustained because it’s too much running for those two. “We’re going to burn them out. We need to figure something else out.’’
She was also pleased with what she saw out of twins Maizy Sundblad (outside hitter) and Danica Sundblad (libero), both eighth-graders. Another obstacle for the coach is figuring out how to use them on a team small in numbers. The girls play both junior varsity and varsity, but that can’t continue either because they are limited to five games per night.
“We need to figure something else out.’’
Statistically, Staples led Cherry with 27 set assists, while Trucano added eight kills.
For the Nighthawks, Nelmark recorded 15 set assists and eight kills, Reichensperger put down 16 kills and added 11 digs and seven blocks. Danica Sundblad also had 10 digs.
Northeast Range hosts Ely and Cherry welcomes in Barnum, both Tuesday.
Two Harbors 0
At Two Harbors, the Blue Devils had a strong team effort as they blanked the Agates, 3-0, in their season opener.
Lexiss Trygg recorded 8 set assists, 3 aces, and 3 blocks;
Emma Lambert tallied 8 set assists;
Maya Carlson put down seven kills and had 4 aces and 2 blocks;
Alosha Ranum scored 5 kills and 3 aces;
Elsie Hyppa added 4 kills and 3 aces.
Virginia (1-0) plays at Duluth Denfeld Thursday at 1:30 p.m.