By Ray Hamill — If Thursday’s game at Arcata High was anything to go by, this season’s Big 5 is going to every bit as thrilling as it is competitive.
The Tigers hosted Eureka in a matchup of teams that tied for second in the standings a year ago, and in an exciting and highly-entertaining showdown, it was the visiting Loggers who came away with a five-sets win (25-17, 25-23, 23-25, 17-25,15-10).
“It was a great match,” Arcata head coach Laurie Griffith said. “We got off to a little bit of a slow start, but we picked it up.”
The Loggers started the stronger of the two teams, and led throughout the majority of the first two sets, opening up a 2-0 advantage.
The third set was a back-and-forth affair, with the Loggers leading early, only to see the Tigers dig deep and answer back.
Arcata opened up a five-point gap at one stage, but the visitors closed it again and forced the tightest of finishes.
Once they had the momentum, however, the Tigers made it count, leading throughout most of the fourth set and forcing a fifth and decisive set, much to the delight of a loud and enthusiastic crowd.
But just when it seemed as if the win was slipping away from the Loggers, they answered in emphatic fashion, opening up a 9-2 lead in the final set and never appearing in danger of losing it after that.
Impressive start for Eureka
“I felt great about the first two sets. We were strong, we were together, we were even keel,” Eureka head coach Rachel Evans said. “With volleyball, once that momentum goes to the other team, a lot of the time, they’ll grab it and keep it.”
The win was a big one for the Eureka girls, who are now 3-0 in the Big 5, and while it’s still early, that’s a commanding advantage in what is shaping up to a highly-competitive league.
Conversely, Arcata dropped to 0-2, with their second five-set loss showcasing how close they are to 2-0.
“Anybody can beat anybody on any given night,” Griffith said.
Napoleon leads the way
Makaila Napoleon was once again instrumental for the Loggers, finishing with 18 kills and five blocks, as was setter Paige Lyons.
“She has really come into her own in her senior year,” Evans said of Lyons.
Peyton Suchanek and Sadie Hampton each also had big games for the Loggers with eight kills apiece.
Suchanek added five aces, while Bailey Giovanoli finished with six digs.
For Arcata, Maya Mircetich had a team-high 10 kills and four aces, while Willow Ricca had nine kills.
Sophomore setter Lola Renteria had 40 assists, while junior libero Lilli Bowman finished with 25 digs and a pair of aces.
Hannah Pereira added six kills and Madeline Williams had four aces.
Tigers’ serving strategy
The Tigers’ serving gave the Loggers some problems.
“They teach their girls to serve deep, and on a consistent basis every one of their girls serves deep,” Evans said of the Tigers. “And then they’d catch us on the short.”
The Loggers adjusted late to the problems presented by the home team’s serving, and came up with another big stand when they needed it.
The win lifts the Eureka girls to 10-2 on the season. Just as importantly, they have now defeated Del Norte and Arcata, their top two rivals from a year ago.
The Loggers will host McKinleyville on Tuesday.
Arcata, meanwhile, dropped to 13-7 on the season and will play at the Brookings-Harbor Tournament on Saturday.