VIRGINIA — The Blue Devils came out of the gate fast to grab a 25-12 game one victory.
However, games two and three were more of a struggle for the home team even though Virginia blanked Deer River, 3-0 (25-12, 25-23, 25-19).
“The first game we came out with the fire, the intensity. We played very well the first game,’’ said Devils head coach Crystal Nucech-Duesler.
“Then the the second and third game we were just kind of complacent, getting really sloppy on our side. We had like 10 free balls just in the last game. We weren’t really talking or moving our feet at all. It wasn’t the best we’ve played but a win is still a win.’’
Virginia played especially well to open the match.
Setter Alli Anderson was all over the place and the seniors played well on senior night.
“I though Alli set well and the seniors all had good games tonight. (Senior) Aryona (Wallace) got a few ace serves and a couple kills for her first start of the season,’’ Nucech-Duesler said.
“We had our moments of doing very good things. We served very well. We had a lot of ace serves tonight. But we just need to keep working on serve receive.’’
Wallace got things going for the Devils in game one with a service ace, while Lexiss Trygg successfully tipped in a point. Emily Hejny and Wallace added kills and Virginia was off to an 11-5 start.
Trygg and Wallace continued to pace the Devils, while Rian Aune served up an ace and Taia Grishaber pounded out a kill for a 24-12 lead in game one. Trygg put it away from the service line for a 25-12 win.
Virginia used much the same strategy to get out to a 10-5 lead in game two, but the Warriors wouldn’t go away. Deer River closed the gap thanks to Taylor Peck and Nevaeh Evans finding hitting success and the Devils making a few mistakes.
Late in the game, Macy Westby scored on a block and an ace serve to put Virginia up 23-17, but Deer River would still not back down. The Warriors pulled to within 24-23 on a Grace Bergland kill, but Trygg again sealed the game with a tip, 25-23.
Game three saw Virginia jump out to a 18-10 lead as Kaylee Iverson led the way. The Devils again had some miscues and the Warriors closed to within 22-19. However, Iverson had a kill and then a block for a 24-19 Devils advantage before Deer River hit long to end the game 25-19 and the match 3-0.
The Devils were led by Trygg with 11 kills, Iverson and Hejny with six each and Wallace and Anderson with four each. Wallace added two ace serves, while Trygg had three and Anderson had two. Anderson also tallied 22 set assists and five digs. Trygg scored 13 digs , Hejny added eight and Aune chipped in with six.
Overall, Nucech-Duesler said Virginia has some work to do still.
“We struggled serve receiving tonight again. We just couldn’t pass the ball in front of the 10-foot line. We’ve been working a lot on that at practice too.
“They just have to get behind the ball when they’re passing and move their feet to keep it in front of them. Hopefully we’ll improve on that before our next game.’’
The next game, and last of the regular season, comes Tuesday at Greenway.
She told her girls “it would have been nice to come out and play the best you could heading into next week because this is our last home game of the season, except maybe for playoffs.’’
Greenway is a tough team led by one of the best players around.
“We know that they have Claire Vekich who is a junior and player of the year last year,’’ Nucech-Duesler said.
The Devils will have to really work on staying on her because the Raiders set to her 90 percent of the time.
The contest has some added importance, too, Nucech-Duesler said. She believes it is for the Iron Range Conference championship because Virginia and Greenway are the only two teams that haven’t lost in the IRC.