By Ray Hamill — The Arcata Tigers won’t win the Big 5, but there’s little doubt they are the most entertaining team to watch in the league this year.
On Tuesday night, the Tigers went the distance yet again, playing their fourth five-set game in six league encounters, defeating Eureka 22-25, 15-25, 25-22, 25-16, 15-12.
It was also their third win in those four games, and even more impressively they have come from behind in all four to force a deciding set.
They did it the hard way once again on Tuesday, dropping the opening two sets before winning three straight for the dramatic win.
“We had a shaky start, and unfortunately we’ve done that a couple of times this year,” Arcata head coach Laurie Griffith said.
It was almost a carbon copy of the first league meeting between the two teams last month, with Eureka again coming out on fire and quickly taking control, only to see the momentum slip away in sets three and four.
The last time, the Loggers were able to regain the initiative, but this time the Tigers refused to give it up again.
“We started off strong. (The players) were in sync and communicating, and they had really good energy,” Eureka head coach Rachel Evans said.
Momentum, however, can be a powerful force in volleyball.
“As soon as the momentum shifted, they took that momentum,” Evans said of Arcata. “And they played really well. They were super scrappy.”
The loss was the first in league play for the Loggers, and prevented them from claiming the Big 5 championship outright — for now.
The Eureka girls, 6-1 in league, claimed at least a share of the title with a win at Del Norte last Thursday.
With Del Norte defeating Fortuna in four sets on Tuesday (23-35, 25-12, 25-10, 25-21), the Warriors improved to 3-2 in the Big 5 and kept their chances of a shared title alive.
The Loggers, however, can still win the title outright with a win at McKinleyville on Thursday, or a loss for the Warriors in any of their remaining three games.
Tigers trail early
After failing to come out of the starting gates with much momentum, the Tigers trailed through most of the first two sets and appeared well on their way to a straight-sets loss.
But down 15-10 in the third set, Arcata won seven of the next nine points to tie the set at 17-17, and then pulled away down the stretch.
And once the momentum had shifted, the home team jumped on it, in particular with an inspiring service run by junior Lilli Bowman.
“I think we went on the offensive,” Griffith said. “And we started serving tough. Lilli Bowman got on that serving streak and that really kind of fired everyone up, and the girls started believing.”
Maya Mircetich had 10 kills to lead a balanced team effort for Arcata (3-3 in league and 18-8 overall), while Mekaynea Solia, Willow Ricca and Bella Peterman each finished with eight kills.
Bowman also had 22 digs, while Lola Renteria finished with 35 assists.
The final set was particularly exciting, with neither team able to pull away and the score tied on seven different occasions, until the Tigers rallied from a 11-10 deficit with four straight points, and then pulled out the dramatic victory on a Ricca kill.
For Eureka (16-7 overall), Peyton Suchanek finished with a game-high 14 kills as well as three aces, while Makaila Napoleon had 10 kills, five blocks and three aces.
Paige Lyons added 29 assists and seven aces.