By Bill Choy
Triplicate Sports Editor
CRESCENT CITY The Del Norte High Varsity volleyball team let out a collective sigh of relief Tuesday evening, nearly going down in a major upset to Big 5 Conference opponent McKinleyville, before pulling off the win in five games, 21-25, 25-17, 25-16, 23-25 and 15-10, at home.
Del Norte has not lost a Big 5 game since 2005.
Their opponent in that loss?
You guessed itMcKinleyville.
Warrior head coach Meagan Curtis said the key problem was her squad was not mentally in the contest for most of the game, and let inconsistent play and too many mistakes allow the game to nearly slip away from them.
"They did not take us to five games," Curtis said. "We took ourselves to five games."
While they took the loss, Panther head coach Dolores Cano said she was extremely proud of the way her team played against a squad like Del Norte to almost get the win.
McKinleyville had lost to Eureka on Thursday, and Cano was pleased with the way her team came back and played so well against Del Norte.
"We had nothing to lose," she said, adding Del Norte has been a dominating team in the Big 5 in all her 12 years coaching the Panthers. "They did incrediblely well tonight...It's always tough for a team to come up here.
"I've only beaten them once in 12 years," she added. "It was close tonight."
The victory improves the Warriors to 15-8 for the year and to 4-0 in the Big 5. The Panthers fell to 19-7 overall and 1-2 in the Big 5.
Game 1 did not go well at all for Del Norte, as a stunned home crowd could only watch a potential upset unfold before their eyes. The Warriors came out flat from the start and the Panthers started to pull away, at one point holding the lead 20-14.
Del Norte came back, getting it to as close as 21-23. But McKinleyville was able to hold on, taking game one 25-21.
"We played awful in game 1," Curtis said, adding her hitters were missing hits and the team played way too sloppy. "My team decided not to show up on game day."
In game 2, the Panthers continued its positive game 1 momentum, taking a 6-13 lead and looking to go up 2-0 on the Warriors.
But something seemed to start clicking on the court for Del Norte as the team began to show glimpses of their dominating play through the first three games of the Big 5 season.
After scoring eight straight points, the Warriors took a 14-13 lead and were able to pull away for the 25-17 win.
In game 3, as the home crowd cheered them on, the Warriors seemed determined not to let this game slip by them and jumped ahead early in the match to go on to the 25-16 win.
In game 4, things seemed to be going well with Del Norte taking a 16-11 advantage.
but then the Panthers started to claw their way back. With the Warriors up 23-22, McKinleyville tied the game and scored the final two points to knot things up at two games each, taking the contest to five games.
As game 5 began, McKinleyville came out showing they wanted to gain the upset win, jumping out to a 5-1 lead.
De Norte battled back and tied the game at seven.
From there they never let go of the lead and seemed to be finally focused on putting the Panthers away as they gained the 15-10 win.
Curtis commended her bench for stepping up and making key plays to help seal the win, such as Brigitte Pingree and Jaclyn Hadfield.
Ashley Owen had 22 kills, while Lisa Daniels had nine kills and Katie Rinkevicz had six kills. Tabitha Hillman had 19 digs and Pingree had 11 digs.
Hadfield had four blocks for kills, while Deja Hartwick and Krista Haban had two blocks for kills each for Del Norte. Hartwick also had 32 assists and four aces. Jessica Morrow also had four aces for the Warriors.