The Del Norte volleyball team managed to hold on to a big lead in the first set and the Warriors only got better from there, picking up a 3-0 (25-18, 25-11, 25-11) victory over McKinleyville on Thursday in Thunen Gym.

The Warriors jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the first set and pushed their advantage as high as 19-11, before several late serving and hitting errors allowed McKinleyville to cut into the Warriors’ lead.

The Panthers fought all the way back to a 24-18 deficit on a 3-0 run before Del Norte senior Tayler Melton finished the set with a kill over the McKinleyville block.

“It is very difficult to play quickly on your side when the ball is coming over slowly,” said Del Norte head coach Debbie Lorenzi. “We didn’t do that so well at first, but we picked it up. The more we talked, the quicker we can play the game. It is funny that the two go together, but they do. I just told them, ‘You need to really pick up the talking, and trust the quickness will come.”

The Warriors took control of the second set with an 11-2 run after losing the first point of the set, and pushed their lead all the way up to 14 at 22-8, before closing out the set for a 25-11 victory.

Del Norte had lost the third set in its previous two matches after jumping out to a 2-0 lead against Fortuna and Arcata. But the Warriors were able to hang on to the momentum on Thursday to complete the sweep.

Del Norte lead McKinleyville 8-6 through the first 14 points of the third set before the Warriors ripped off a 12-2 run that put the team in control for the rest of the way.

“I am very proud of the girls for keeping their spirits up throughout the match because some teams can’t do that — I have had some teams that can’t do that,” Lorenzi said. “I think we learned from our game against Fortuna that we need to play that way, and that this is not going to happen to us again.”

Setter Payten Healy racked up 34 assists in the match to lead a balanced Warrior offense. Kaleya Sanchez had a team high 11 kills to go along with three blocks and seven digs. Melton and Claire Smith both added 10 kills apiece for Del Norte, with Smith also recording eight digs.

Offensively, Del Norte used a wide variety of shots to keep the Panthers’ defense guessing throughout the match.

“We probably tipped more than you have ever seen,” Lorenzi said. “We are trying to do different speeds. I think we probably tried tipping a little bit too much tonight, but that sometimes happens when you are just starting to work on something. We had plenty of hard swings, too, though.”

Senior libero Antonia Alcala lead the Warriors defensively with 12 digs.

With the win, Del Norte improves to 18-1 overall this season and the Warriors sit at 4-0 at the halfway point of the Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 league season.

Del Norte has a week off before resuming Big 5 play on Thursday on the road in Eureka. The Warriors beat Eureka 25-14, 25-17 when the teams met in Yreka at the Miner Mountain Blast in early September, and Del Norte topped the Loggers 25-16, 25-16, 25-19 in its HDN opener on Sept. 26.

The Warriors are currently in first place in the league standings, but sit just one game ahead of the Tigers, whose only lost in league this season came at the hands of Del Norte. Every other team in the Big 5 has at least two losses. Although Del Norte is in strong position to capture its first solo Big 5 league championship since 2009, Lorenzi said the Warriors still have work to do before the end of the season.

“We just want to get more consistent with hitting certain sports,” Lorenzi said. “We want to be able to hit the deep corner consistently without hits, which is a tough shot to make,” Lorenzi said. “We are also going to work on serves. Some of my kids are serving well, but some of us need to get more consistent. You have to be able to serve four in a row at least. After that I can understand a mistake.”

Reach Michael Zogg at mzogg@triplicate.com.

18409096