Duluth East sweeps Hibbing in volleyball
In past years, any high school volleyball team that trailed Hibbing by at least five points in each game likely would go home losers. But Duluth East proved capable of digging out of early holes against the longtime Northland powerhouse, rallying...
In past years, any high school volleyball team that trailed Hibbing by at least five points in each game likely would go home losers.
But Duluth East proved capable of digging out of early holes against the longtime Northland powerhouse, rallying in every game to sweep the Bluejackets on Thursday night and, perhaps, establish the Greyhounds as the team to beat in the Section 7AAA playoffs.
The Greyhounds overcame deficits of five points in the first and third games and six points in the second game to win 25-20, 31-29, 25-19 at the East gym.
"It's nice to see in that situation our kids maintained our composure, didn't panic and stuck with the plan," coach Kevin Flynn said. "Maybe in the past they would have been the team that made a mistake in the end."
This group, though young, has several players who were members of a Junior Olympics team that played in a national tournament. Sophomore Elena Lushine had a game-high
14 kills and junior Sadie Kunst had 13, including the match-clincher.
"They've seen big matches, and they've been down and needed to come back," Flynn said. "Their experience level is more than their age would seem to indicate. They also might be a little naïve."
East (11-3) won five-game matches against once-beaten Grand Rapids and Washburn already this season and stretched their winning streak to six.
"Once we get down, we fire each other up and we can fight back and eventually win it," said Kunst, an outside hitter. "I feel like we'll make it to state this year."
Hibbing (5-7) led 13-8 in the opening game before East won nine of the next 11 points. Kunst had a pair of kills and one of Lushine's seven ace blocks ended the game. Down 21-15 in the second game, East rallied with some unexpected help from a loose Bluejackets' serving game that included three missed serves.
"That's inexcusable; that's a lack of focus, a lack of concentration," Hibbing coach Gail Nucech said. "That's a six-point swing in that game. Those are mental mistakes that need to be corrected, and if you keep making mental mistakes you're going to lose."
East fought off six game points to keep the momentum in its direction.
"We leave a lot of points on the floor," Flynn said, "but we're such a young team that, while frustrating, that is to be expected. But they also tend to come through and make plays."
Hibbing led 10-5 in the final game but lost 11 of the final 15 points to drop its sixth consecutive match.
"You have to play aggressive, pass the ball and know where their hitters are," Nucech said. "When you don't pass the ball and play aggressive, that's what happens."
Though this marked the second straight year that the Greyhounds downed the Bluejackets on their home court, it was the first time for Flynn. Three days before last year's match, his 4-year-old son, Rory, was rushed to Children's Hospital in Minneapolis to have a tumor removed. The youngster is fine now, and Flynn was able to enjoy the victory.
"While officially my second win against Hibbing, unofficially it was my first," he said. "This was nice."