Fortuna High’s Nicole Johnson leapt up for the kill, and Del Norte High’s Regin Loftin and Ashton Smedley went up for the block.
Neither Loftin nor Smedley stopped the shot. Instead, the ball pinballed between them and fell to the ground, assuring a 19-25, 26-24, 25-20, 25-20 victory for the Huskies.
While Fortuna did not overwhelm the Warriors (4-5 overall, 1-2 Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 League) with exceptional hitting or enveloping defensive coverage, the Huskies found defenders just out of position — the last point was a microcosm of this — or ill-prepared to receive the ball.
“It was just a poor showing,” Del Norte coach Pablo Lorenzi said. “We’re just not very mature. We’re not doing what is required to win.”
Hard to believe by match’s end that this was the same Warriors team roaring out to a 20-10 lead in the opening set, passing, setting and hitting with aplomb.
Fortuna tightened the score on the Warriors late, and momentum had shifted. Warriors junior Kaitlyn Clemann had four of her team-high 11 kills in the second set, and junior Kira Davis got all three of her service aces by Huskies players, but Del Norte never led by more than three points in the set.
The Warriors held a 24-23 lead before consecutive hitting errors by Clemann and a passing error by Brittany Maready allowed Fortuna to tie the match.
“We just choked at the end,” Lorenzi said.
The Huskies raced out to a 6-1 lead in the third set and never relinquished it.
In the fourth and final set, Del Norte and Fortuna played to a 15-15 tie before the Huskies outscored the Warriors 10-5, an advantage built off eight Del Norte errors.
“They let outside influences dictate what’s happening,” Lorenzi said. “They killed themselves more than they killed (Fortuna).”
Smedley finished the night with nine kills and two service aces, while Maready filled up the stat sheet with eight kills, six digs and two service aces. Senior Marissa Van Dyke assisted on 20 points and had three service aces for the Warriors.
Del Norte faces off against Arcata High on Thursday night in Arcata, the Warriors’ first road contest since Sept. 17.
That leaves one full day of practice to reverse the poor feelings of two straight losses.
“They’re not having that image in their mind that they can win,” Lorenzi said.