HIBBING — When set one of the Hibbing and Eveleth-Gilbert match went into overtime, little did anyone know what kind of effect it would have on both the teams.
The winner of that set would gain all of the momentum, while the loser would be left to wonder, ‘What if?’
The Bluejackets would prevail in that set and that propelled Hibbing to a 3-0, 27-25, 25-18, 25-14 victory over the Golden Bears Tuesday at the Lincoln Elementary School Gymnasium.
It was Bluejackets second victory over the season, which was a long time in coming, according to Hibbing junior Bailey Broker.
“It feels good,” Broker said. “It feels like we’re actually working as a team, and getting our hitting percentage up. It feels good to finally get a win back on our home court.”
The Bluejackets came close at the North Branch Invite, playing well but losing to both Cloquet and Carlton, but Hibbing took that momentum into this contest. It paid off handsomely.
“We carried in that same fire we had in those two games,” Broker said. “We stayed fired up, not letting too many errors get to us, and shaking off our mistakes.”
Set one was back-and-forth, but it was tied 25-25 when the Bluejackets took advantage of some Eveleth-Gilbert unforced errors to win by two.
“That means we’ve come together as a team because we had to fight for those points,” Broker said. “I think it brought the other team down. That game was exciting. We all stayed fired up and cheered for each other. It was fun.”
According to Eveleth-Gilbert coach Beth Bittman, her team has had trouble finishing games this season, and that problem showed up again in set one.
“The girls need to believe in themselves more,” Bittman said. “They get in their own heads a little bit. A lot of it comes down to experience, but a lot of it doesn’t with those senior players.
“It’s about believing in ourselves.”
That’s where the two teams’ personalities split.
The Bluejackets came out more fired up in set two, got out to an 11-4 lead, then it was 21-12 before the Golden Bears put a run to cut it to 24-18.
With no room for error, Eveleth-Gilbert committed an unforced error to give Hibbing a 2-0 lead.
“We carried all of that cheering on, and we didn’t get down after one point,” Broker said. “We were shaking off all of our mistakes.”
The Golden Bears fell flat, and they could pick it back up again.
“It brought us down a little bit,” Bittman said. “We adjusted our defense a little bit, and the girls looked hesitant out there. We let some balls hit the floor that should have been played.
“We had too many unforced errors tonight.”
The Bluejackets did fall behind in set three, but they rallied back, took a 6-5 lead.
Hibbing never looked back from that moment on.
“We figured it was all of the fans here, and the excitement of the crowd,” Broker said. “They cheered us on after we got behind by a little bit.”
According to Bittman, the crowd may have gotten to her team during the match.
“We did the best we could,” Bittman said. “I put some players in there who I thought would bring the emotional side of the game out, but we couldn’t get it together. It wasn’t our night.
“It was difficult with the nice crowd they had. They were loud. Our girls, I think, were a little bit intimidated by the crowd. They didn’t perform as well as they have the last two games.”
Haley Hawkinson led Hibbing with 10 kills. Kylee Huusko and Broker both had seven. Bella Scaia had 10 digs, and Justyne Orazem and Arianna Jaynes had eight apiece. Bethany Carlson had 26 assists.
Emma Westby had 10 kills for Eveleth-Gilbert, and Emily Kemp added seven. Maggie Landwer had 21 assists, and Ashley Pionk had four digs.