HURON — Coming off a ragged four-set win over Harrisburg on Saturday night, Huron Tiger coach Shelly Buddenhagen took her team back to the thought process of being “Two Points Better.”
“Sometimes we get caught up in the scoreboard instead of doing our jobs,” she said after the Saturday match.
Judging by the effort put forth by her Tigers Thursday night against the visiting Brookings Bobcats, the premise of each player doing her job seems to be sinking in.
Huron defeated Brookings 3-0 (25-23, 26-24 and 25-18) in a tough ESD match, keyed by outstanding nights from both Hollee Niehus and Havyn Heinz, and a solid effort by every Tiger who stepped on the court.
“I thought that we did a much better job in trusting the process tonight,” Buddenhagen said. “We worked on each player doing her job and not paying as much attention to the scoreboard and adding pressure. We needed that tonight, when we got down in the early sets.”
The first two sets of the match were very nearly identical.
The teams would trade points in the early going, then in both sets, the Bobcats would pull away to a sizeable lead. Brookings accomplished the feat partially due to the duo
of Kylie Tucker and Johanna Miller, who found tiny spaces in the Tiger defense, and some self inflicted wounds by Huron.
A pair of net violations and a couple of hitting errors by the Tigers, staked the Bobcats to an 18-11 lead after a Miller kill. Coming out of a Huron timeout, Niehus went down the line for a kill that got the momentum flowing the other direction. Havyn Heinz stroked an ace that cut the margin to two, and after a Niehus kill and one by Alaina Dale the score was tied for the first time since 8-8.
A hitting error put Brookings up 23-22, but kills by Tenley Buddenhagen and Libby Rounds closed out the first set for the home team.
“We knew that (Michaela) Jewett is one of the better setters in the state so we wanted to attack her as much as we could tonight,” Coach Buddenhagen said. “We had them out of system more tonight. We wanted to concentrate on speed and location on our serves as well, and I thought we had a good night serving the ball.”
In the second set, the Bobcat run started earlier. With the set tied at 2-2, Brookings ran four straight ponts to surge to an early lead. Niehus tallied a block kill and Heinz had another ace - she would end with five in the match - to get Huron even again at 7-7, only to watch Brookings pull away again with a 5-1 run to make it 12-8. The Bobcat lead grew to seven points at 17-10 before Niehus took over.
Over a 13-point stretch in the set, Niehus had two kills and a block kill, while Heinz notched two more aces. Brookings’ only points in the stretch came off Huron miscues as the offense that had sputtered at times for the Tigers caught fire and began to run more smoothly.
Kills by Rounds and Dale brought the score even once again at 19-all. Brookings rallied briefly, but Rounds split the defense again. Kylie Overbay notched one of her two aces in the match, and after a very long rally in extra time, Niehus pounded down a block kill for the 26-24 win.
Set three was even in the early going, but a service error on the Bobcats, a hitting error by the visitors and a kill by Dale put Huron up 8-4. The Tigers maintained the advantage, with the lead growing to as many as six points but never falling below three the rest of the set.
Mikena Moore powered home a kill to bring Huron to match point and, fittingly, Niehus pounded home one final kill - her 19th of the match - to end the three-set sweep.
“Hollee had a big night but we had others who really stepped up tonight,” Coach Buddenhagen said. “Libby had a good night, Mikena got in some good swings and I thought our passing was much improved tonight.”
Buddenhagen credited Heinz as having a particularly good night passing the ball, while Isabelle Ford, who had missed the early part of the season, returned and strengthened a potent back row defense for the Tigers.
In addition to Niehus’ kill total, Rounds added eight, Moore had five and Dale added four. As a team, Huron notched 10 aces in the match.
The win pushes Huron to a record of 7-2 on the season, while Brookings drops to 2-8.
Next up for the Tigers is a trip to Aberdeen on Saturday night to take on the 6-2 Golden Eagles.
PHOTOS BY MIKE CARROLL/PLAINSMAN
Huron’s Tenley Buddenhagen sets the ball as teammate Libby Rounds approaches the net during their match against Brookings on Thursday at Huron Arena.
Next, Huron’s Alaina Dale plays a volley during a match against Brookings on Thursday at Huron Arena.
And next, Huron’s Isabell Ford passes the ball during Thursday’s match.