The Del Norte volleyball team controlled the first two sets against Eureka and came on strong late in the third set to complete the 3-0 (25-16, 25-16, 25-19) sweep of the Loggers in the Warriors Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 League opener on Tuesday in Thunen Gym.
“I thought we played really well,” said Del Norte head coach Debbie Lorenzi. “The first game especially was really clean. We had good passes in the first game and we served tough for two games. In the third game we struggled with our serving and we lacked a little bit of motion and intensity but we got it back by the end of the game.”
The Warriors jumped out to a 7-3 lead in the first set of the game and methodically pulled away from Eureka throughout the set to win by nine. The Loggers jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the second set, but the Warriors worked their way back to a tie at 5-5. A 10-3 Del Norte run midway through the second set put the Warriors in control the rest of the way.
With a 2-0 lead, Lorenzi said she thought the Warriors lost a little intensity heading into the third set.
Eureka was once again able to get off to a fast start with a 5-1 lead. The Warriors fought back to tie the game up at 7-7, but the third set went back and forth with neither side building a lead larger than four.
With the score tied at 18-18, the Warriors retook control of the game. Claire Smith got the Warriors started with a kill for a 19-18 lead. Kaleya Sanchez followed that up with four straight serves that the Loggers couldn’t return, including back to back aces, to put Del Norte ahead 23-18.
Tayler Melton led the Warriors with 10 kills in the game, followed by Smith and Sanchez with eight kills apiece. Antonia Alcala led the Warrior defense with five digs, followed by Smith with four. Payten Healy recorded 30 assists for the game.
Healy, Smith and Sanchez all had three aces in the match.
“It is nice to get the win. Sometimes the first home game is tough, and it was homecoming, too, but I thought we handled it quite well,” Lorenzi said. “The players were talking before the game about how they needed to get their minds here, they brought that up, not me. So I knew my team was ready. They are a mentally tough group, and they should be because we have four seniors on the court almost all the time.”
The Loggers were a much larger team physically, and Eureka gave the Warriors hitters a little trouble in the first game with five blocks for kills. Without a player within an inch of 6 feet, the team will likely need to be able to live with a few blocked hits throughout the season, Lorenzi said.
“We are going to get blocked a lot. A lot of teams are bigger than us. Against Arcata they had a line that was over 6-foot all the way across and we got blocked a lot. We just have to cover our hitters and go up again,” Lorenzi said. “Tonight we didn’t cover our hitters very well in the first game. After that when we covered our hitters that shut down their blocking attitude. Any little thing that you can do like that helps put their attitude down — like an ace serve, a dump from Payton or a block — those things always help the momentum change.”
The Warriors were also able to combat the Loggers’ size advantage with its overall speed.
“We are working on a quick rhythm and it is getting quicker every time we compete,” Lorenzi said. “Our understanding is also better. We are starting to get a little more volleyball-smart.”
Lorenzi said the improvements haven’t happened overnight — she has spent the past two years working on speeding up the team’s offense.
“They are strong and in shape,” Lorenzi said. “You can’t run that offense unless you are strong and quick, so our work in the weight room and our work on the track is really paying off. It is nice for them to be able to see the rewards of all the work we did in the offseason.”
With the win, Del Norte improves to 14-1 overall this season and the Warriors are off to a 1-0 start in HDN Big 5 play. Del Norte will be back in action on Thursday with a road game in Fortuna.