NEGAUNEE - On Aug. 28, the Negaunee High School girls volleyball team won its first two games against host Escanaba, only to lose, 3-2.
Tuesday night in Negaunee, the Miners again took a 2-0 advantage over the Eskymos. This time, however, coach Annette Gleason's Negaunee squad closed out Escanaba with a 25-23 decision in the third game to win, 3-0.
"Tonight, it was a test to see if we would finish," Gleason said after her Miners (2-5) had won the first two games as well, 25-20 and 25-14. "We proved to ourselves we could.
Negaunee’s Aubrey Nyman dives for a dig against Escanaba in a nonconference match on Tuesday at?Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium in Negaunee. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
"Never once did I get nervous. I thought the girls would come through. I've seen how hard they've been practicing and the effort they've been giving me each day.
"I knew they wanted it and would come around," she added.
Negaunee senior Ashley Veale, who led her team with 10 kills, eight aces and six digs, said teamwork was one factor that led the Miners to overcome a 16-20 deficit in the third game.
"Our defense has also gotten a lot better," she said. "We're picking each other up when we're down and not getting frustrated on the court anymore.
"We felt we should have won that last game at Escanaba and this was our turn to prove we could beat them."
Aubrey Nyman chipped in seven kills for Negaunee, Jayda Johnson recorded nine assists, and Katelyn Johnson and Hayley Blake contributed six digs apiece.
For Escanaba (2-3), Jade Heliin turned in three kills and two aces. Holly Ettenhofer added three aces and Kathryn Wellman turned in two blocks.
"We were slow, off our game tonight," Esky coach Bron Harmon said. "We just couldn't find it tonight.
"Our serving definitely hurt us. We missed serves at critical moments."
Both teams played back-and-forth in the first game, with Negaunee holding the biggest lead, 16-12, before the Eskymos closed the gap to 19-18.
But the Miners, with the help of a late Nyman kill, went on a 6-2 run to win going away.
"Escanaba has a wonderful defense and we just had to find our spots," Gleason said. "The girls did a good job passing and setting."
The Miners broke up a close second game with an 18-8 advantage to triumph, though Heliin posted two late kills for the Eskymos.
"We made way too many mistakes, mostly a lack of communication," Harmon said.
The third game saw the Eskymos - with Ettenhofer recording an ace and a kill - take a 16-11 lead before the Miners came back after a time out.
"I told them to keep their composure and stay focused," Gleason said.
"We decided to go with our new foreign exchange student (Kate Malicka of the Czech Republic), who has an underhand serve. She proved herself."
Jayda Johnson posted an ace, while Nyman and Katelyn Johnson added late kills to help spur the Negaunee rally.
"We missed three serves in a row (at the end)," Harmon said. "Negaunee is a good team and plays good defense. You give them opportunities to score and it's going to cause problems."
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.