AURORA — The Mesabi East Volleyball team had not been pressed in a match since September.
That changed on Monday night when they met the Eveleth-Gilbert Golden Bears.
The Giants won the first two games and looked to be cruising to a sweep before the E-G took two of their own to send things to a fifth game.
Using the stellar serving of Lindsey Baribeau, the Giants closed the door on the Bears and won game five to take the match 3-2 (25-22, 26-24, 18-25, 20-25, 15-5).
“We have not had to play an extra game since September,” Giants coach Sarah Baribeau said. “Eveleth-Gilbert came ready to play tonight and they pushed us.”
Mesabi East raced out to a quick 4-0 lead in game one forcing Golden Bears coach Beth Bittmann to take a time out. Back-to-back kills from Emily Kemp following the time out made it a 4-2 contest.
The teams then traded points until kills from Baribeau and Kora Forslinel made it a 15-11 Giants lead. The Golden Bears, however, were not going to go away quietly.
They fought back to make it a 23-19 contest and got even closer when Brooke Thyen unleashed an ace serve just before a kill from Kempl made it 23-21. The Giants hung tough and closed out the game on a Baribeau tip to win it 25-22.
“We fought back and that was great to see,” Golden Bears coach Bittmann said. “I was happy.”
Game two was a back and forth affair with the biggest lead of the game coming when Mesabi East went up by four, 17-13.
The teams continued to trade points until back-to-back Thyen aces made it a 20-19 game.
“I like how we were serving the ball,” Bittmann said. “That is one of the things we have been really working on.”
The teams traded points until the Golden Bears took a 24-23 lead, forcing Baribeau to take a time out. The Giants tied the game at 24-24 on a Forsline kill and took a one point lead on an Allie Lamppa ace serve.
The Giants picked up their second game win when the Golden Bears could not return Lamppa’s next serve.
“We did what we had to do to win that game,” Baribeau said. “They weren’t going to just give it to us.”
Game three was all Eveleth-Gilbert. They raced out to a quick 11-6 lead and never looked back.
Some big Thyen Kills at the net and some Kemp digs led Eveleth-Gilbert to the seven point win.
“We did everything right that game,” Bittmann said. “On both sides of the ball we were playing solid.”
Game four was a back-and-forth affair. The teams traded points with neither team holding a lead over two points until the Golden Bears took a 22-20 lead. They then used back-to-back kills from Joey Westbyto earn set point, 24-20.
The Golden Bears tied up the match when the Giants hit a ball out of bounds, forcing a fifth and final game.
Mesabi East took the early lead in the final frame on a Baribeau block to make it a 4-1 game. Kaitlynn James added an ace serve to make it a 5-1 contest.
The Golden Bears picked up a pair of points to close the gap but that’s when Baribeau was back on the service line.
The senior hit three straight aces on her jump serve to put the Giants up 11-3. A Forsline kill made it 12-3 and another Baribeau ace made it 14-4.
The match came to an end when Forsline and Baribeau had a block at the net to, shutting down the Bears one last time, 15-5
“This was a fun night of volleyball,” Baribeau said. “Eveleth-Gilbert is a very good team and they showed it tonight.”
Even with the loss Bittmann was happy about the way her squad played.
“It was a battle out there,” Bittmann said. “This could have gone either way tonight.”
Baribeau ended the night with 24 kills, six ace serves, six blocks, and 10 digs. Forsline added 13 kills, while Kaitlynn James had 25 digs. Lamppa collected 46 Set Assists.
Kemp led the Golden Bears with 16 kills, while Westby added 10. Thyen had 9. Lauren Lautigar finished with 36 set assists.
The Giants will go to Cherry on Monday. The Golden Bears will host Two Harbors on Monday.