ESCANABA - The Escanaba Eskymos may have proved Tuesday evening that offense really is the best defense.
Escanaba and Negaunee both displayed tough defense on the girls volleyball court as both teams appeared evenly matched. But Esky's power hitting and consistent game may have been the difference in a three-set 25-15, 25-21, 25-19 victory.
"They just played with more momentum and excitement than we did tonight," said Negaunee coach Annette Gleason of the Eskymos. "I think that kind of hurt us. They're a great hitting team and they've improved since we last saw them."
The Eskymos showed a penchant for timely runs, as well. They held a 19-17 lead late in the first set before Kami Fritz reeled off a six-point service run to put that one in the books. Three Negaunee hitting errors during that run were key.
The Miners seemed to have control in the second set as they led 15-9 and 18-12, but the Eskymos fought back.
Down 21-17 late, Ashley Cook came up to serve and she didn't relinquish the ball, reeling off an 8-0 service run the Miners were powerless to stop, despite a couple of long points that could have gone either way.
The run may have been a backbreaker for Negaunee, as the Miners headed into the third set down 2-0.
Gleason said her defense certainly wasn't to blame.
"Our defense was really great, especially our right side back," she said. "Rosalie Anderson always plays great defense for us.
"We just need to work on hitting and completing the play. We struggled with communication and that's something we can always work on."
On the other side of the net, Escanaba's Ashley Cook came up with 14 digs and three aces.
"I've said it once and I'll say it a thousand times. Ashley is probably one of the best liberos I've seen in the U.P.. She touches every ball," Esky coach Teresa Heidt said.
The Miners started the third set strong, but it didn't take long for the Eskymos to overwhelm. Syd Gafner got things rolling with back-to-back aces as Escanaba went on a 10-2 run to give it an 11-5 lead that would not be relinquished.
Escanaba led 20-14 late, but the Miners scored five of the set's final 10 points. Cook again closed the game out with a 3-0 service run.
Negaunee was led by Aubrey Nyman's five kills. Anderson added four kills, an ace and a block; Jayda Johnson came up with seven digs and seven assists; and Hannah Laurila posted six digs and five assists.
The victory ended a four-game losing streak for the Eskymos (4-4).
Fritz led Escanaba with seven kills and three solo blocks. Jade Heliin chipped in four kills, Alexa Langsford 11 assists and Brittany Bruce five digs.