COKATO – Learning to finish things off and win has been the goal for the Dassel-Cokato volleyball team all season. They showed their making progress towards that again as they battled back in an exciting 3-2 (16-25, 25-26, 16-25, 25-17, 15-12) win over Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Nov. 13.
“This was overall a really nice match for us,” Chargers coach Linda Resop said. “Our team has been working hard in the gym to put together a strong, versatile offense, and we realize it starts with a great pass to give our setters and hitters a chance to run options and connect.”
For HLWW, it was another time they let a lead slip away. Despite having a 1-0 and 2-1 lead over Dassel-Cokato, the Lakers were unable to get that elusive first win of the season.
“Our athletes put up a great fight against D-C,” HLWW coach Carol Meyerson said. “I have to hand it to DC, they do a great job of persevering. I am very pleased with how we played. We were down two starters and had to make some unexpected adjustments.”
The Lakers, who were without one of their top hitters in Marit Gueningsman, came outs swinging early. Back-to-back aces from Abby Niesen gave HLWW an early 7-2 lead. From then on it was all Lakers as they took a 1-0 lead with a 25-16 victory.
In a familiar spot down 1-0, D-C did what they always do – fight back.
A kill from Evelyn O’Brien early on gave the Chargers their first led of the night. O’Brien would add another kill, giving D-C an 8-4 lead and forcing a HLWW timeout.
“We just feed off each other the whole time,” O’Brien said. “Just bring each other up and be super positive.”
D-C would tie things up at one with a 25-16 win in set two, but it was HLWW who came out firing in set three thanks to the emergence of younger players.
Big kills down the stretch from Lexi Koch and Emma Kaillo put HLWW back on top with a 25-16 victory.
“I was impressed with Kayla and Emma,” Meyerson said. “They really stepped it up into their first starting roles on varsity without much prep. Lexi and Gabby also had great nights. They are excellent leaders and always bring energy and excitement to the game.”
A big reason for the big nights offensively for those hitters was the defense by HLWW libero Jenna Pelnis. She had a match-high 47 digs.
“Jenna also led in the back row with amazing defense,” Meyerson said. “She kept us in a lot of those long rallies.”
With D-C down to their final set, they responded in a big way. The Chargers opened the fourth set on a 6-0 run and never looked back as their offense was clicking. Zoe Verhey, who finished the match with 11 kills, had two clutch kills down the stretch to force a fifth set.
“All our hitters were able to capitalize on this tonight and I think the team was able to see how dynamic and effective they can be when they work together,” Resop said. “Our team is really resilient and not willing to give up on themselves or each other.”
With the match going to a fifth set for the second time in a week, D-C wasn’t satisfied with just forcing a fifth set. HLWW had an early 6-4 lead, but a kill from O’Brien in the back row tied the set at seven.
With the set still tied at 11, it was O’Brien and the Chargers who took control down the stretch in a 15-2 win in comeback fashion.
“We try to play one play at a time, one game at a time, and they do that with a lot of heart,” Resop said. “Now, we have to figure out how to start fast, so we don’t always have to play from behind.”
“It was back and forth the entire time,” O’Brien added. “I think we did a really good job of pulling it together and coming through. It’s kind of been a rough season so far, but we haven’t stopped. We keep going.”
For HLWW it was their second five-set loss in the same week. While they were so close to picking up that first win, Meyerson knows how important it is to stay focused going forward.
“It can be disappointing to lose two five-set matches in the same week, but these girls are excited for the last couple weeks of the season,” Meyerson said. “I think we’ll continue to see some competitive matches.
For the complete story and more Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the Friday, Nov. 20 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.
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