BIG 5 VOLLEYBALL — Big wins for Eureka, Del Norte on exciting opening night

Photos by Ray Hamill/ – The Eureka Loggers had reason to smile on Thursday as they got their new Big 5 campaign off to a winning start at McKinleyville.

If opening night is any indication, it should be an exciting fall for Big 5 volleyball.

League play got under way with four teams in action on Thursday, including a thriller in Crescent City that went five sets, all of which were decided by just two points.

The Del Norte girls got the win, rallying twice from a set down to pull out a 23-25, 27-25, 24-26, 25-23, 17-15 victory over the Arcata Tigers, who are the defending Big 5 champs.

The Eureka Loggers also got their campaign off to a winning start, pulling out a 25-15, 19-25, 25-21, 25-14 victory at McKinleyville, while Fortuna had an opening-night bye.

For the Warriors, it was an impressive start to league play.

“It went down to the wire,” Del Norte head coach Meagan Curtis said. “I think our girls are in very good shape physically, and we told them they have to stay tough and be gritty and never give up, and that’s how they played in every set.”

The Tigers matched the home team’s energy.

“It was a super intense game!” Arcata head coach Laurie Griffith said. “I’m proud of my girls for playing hard every minute of the match.”

Sophomore Lauren Stutes led the Warriors with a team-high 12 kills, while junior McKenna Curtis added 11 kills despite missing the fourth set with an injury.

The all-league team leader would return to help key the late rally.

unior Breann Winnigham also had a good night and finished with nine kills, while Lili Nunez chipped in a team-best 36 assists

With McKenna sidelined, some of the younger Del Norte players stepped up their game.

“They all stepped up and got the job done,” the head coach said. “I was very impressed with their ability to adjust.”

This year’s Warriors team features a junior-heavy lineup with just two seniors, as well as three sophomores and a freshman.

“It’s a group of girls that are really enjoying playing together,” Meagan Curtis said.

Sydney Hasselquist had another huge night for the visitors and finished with a game-high 15 kills, while teammate Quincy Collins had 10 kills, Caroline Dieker nine and Audrey Dart eight.

Lila Wolf also had a big night and finished with 10 digs and three aces, while Nora Talty had a game-high 39 assists.

The Eureka girls, meanwhile, had several players shine as they got league play off to a winning start.

Meghan Hampton finished with 11 kills and four aces, while Mariah Napoleon had seven kills and four aces and Aniah Gaither six kills and a pair of blocks.

Isis Poteet added five kills and Anisha Rechelluul had a game-high 24 assists.

Trinity Preston and Canmryn Pinard continued to set the tone for the Panthers and each finished with eight kills, while teammate Natalyia Turner finished with a team-high 12 digs and Rebecca Barnett had 14 assists.

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