The Del Norte volleyball team got off to a slow start and couldn’t quite recover on Thursday, as Eureka escaped Crescent City with a 3-1 (25-23, 25-18, 18-25, 25-21) victory to remain undefeated in Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 League play.

“We did a lot of good things, but we definitely didn’t come out very strong in the first two games, and I think that is why we lost,” said Del Norte head coach Sarah Levi. “We definitely picked it up in the third game though. We had more of an aggressive attitude and we came out with the drive to win and that need to win now.”

The first set of the game was a back and forth battle between the Warriors and Loggers as the score remained within three points for the entire set. Eureka held a slim advantage for much of the early going, but Del Norte battled back to tie the game at 11-11. The teams tied again at 14-14, 17-17, 18-18, 21-21 and 23-23. Eureka took advantage of a pair of Del Norte errors on the last two points to escape with a 25-23 win and take a 1-0 lead in the match.

The second set started out competitively as well, but Eureka put together a 9-1 run midway through the set to open up a 17-11 advantage and held on for a 25-18 win.

The Loggers continued to roll early in the third set, jumping out to a 3-0 lead before Del Norte senior Kaleya Sanchez started to take over.

Sanchez smacked kills on four of the next six points, including a couple bullets into the gym floor, to pull the Warriors back within a point, trailing 5-4.

The Loggers regained the momentum, scoring three straight points to take a 9-5 lead before Del Norte came barreling back.

Del Norte put together a 10-1 run, kicked off by three kills by senior Paula Mello sandwiched around a pair of Eureka errors.

Eureka answered back with three straight points to pull within 15-14, but Del Norte was able to regain momentum and force a fourth set, pulling away down the stretch for a 25-18 win.

“It was such a different energy in the third game,” Levi said. “We just need to work on coming out like that and being aggressive at the start.”

The fourth set was another close battle between the top two teams in the league, featuring 14 ties and six lead changes.

Del Norte held a 21-20 lead late in the match, but Eureka took advantage of two Warrior hitting errors, a block for a kill by the Loggers, and two serve-receive errors by Del Norte to finish the set on a 5-0 run for a 25-21 win.

“There were a lot of good things; we just need to work on the other stuff,” Levi said. “We need to cut down on the free points that we give to the other team. We have to minimize those, minimize our hitting errors, and minimize our serving errors. Volleyball is a game of errors. Even if you play hard and do good things you still make some errors.”

Levi said she thought many of the errors throughout the game came when the Warriors started to lose their aggressive edge.

“I hope that they learn from this that they can’t hesitate and they can’t play it safe,” Levi said. “I think too much of the time we were trying to play it safe, and that is when we were making some of our errors. I think this match really shows the difference between coming out aggressively and coming out flat.”

Although Levi said there is still plenty of room left to grow, she did see several signs of improvement throughout the loss on Thursday.

“It was one of those games that, yeah, it is hard to lose, but it wasn’t all bad,” she said. “I did see a lot of good things that I was proud of, especially some of the things that we have been working on in practice.”

One of the high points, according to Levi, was Sanchez. The senior led the Warriors with 16 kills, including several extremely hard shots. Sanchez also tied for the team lead with Renni Loftin, with seven digs apiece in the match.

“Kaleya came out and played really well,” Levi said. “She was crushing balls. We know she has the capability to do that, so it was good to see it.”

Mello ended the game with 11 kills for Del Norte while Caroline Hamm chipped in seven kills.

The Warriors also had a total of four players with at least five digs. Bella Stone finished with six kills and five digs, while Katherine Martinez added five kills and five digs against Eureka.

“There were a lot of good defensive plays throughout the match,” Levi said. “We got a lot of balls up.”

With the loss, Del Norte falls to 2-2 overall in the Big 5 while Eureka improves to 6-0. The Warriors are still in second place in the league standings, just ahead of Arcata and Fortuna, which are both 2-3 after Thursday’s games.

Reach Michael Zogg at mzogg@triplicate.com .

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