Spartans slip past Bears, 3-2

Eveleth-Gilbert's Emma Westby drives the ball past Nashwauk-Keewatin's Addy Gangl and Jazlynn Svaleson during Thursday's match in Eveleth.

EVELETH — Two volleyball teams matched up in Eveleth Thursday night to open up the 2019 season.

The Eveleth-Gilbert Golden Bears hosted the Spartans from Naskwauk-Keewatin.

When all was said and done, N-K came away with a 5-game victory: 25-20, 21-25, 25-22, 12-25, 15-7.

“Getting the win was how I wanted to start the season but five games was not the way,” Spartans coach Jessica Noonan said. “We do have some line up changes this year so it might take a match or two to really turn it up.”

Game one of the match was a struggle for both squads.

The Golden Bears held a 12-8 lead after a tip from senior Payton Dosan forced Noonan to take a time out.

Following the time out, N-K got the serve back and junior Misty Bozich put down four straight points to lock the game up at 12-12.

Both teams then traded points until Spartans middle hitter Addy Gangl unleashed a big kill to give her squad a 19-16 lead.

“That kill really got us going,” Noonan said. “She is young but sure can hit the ball.”

The Golden Bears tried to get back in to the game, led by a Emma Westby kill but the Nashwauk/Keewatin defense shut them down and came away with a five point first game victory.

“We came out slow in that first game,” Golden Bears coach Beth Bittmann said. “We came out flat in that game and they made us pay for it.”

Eveleth-Gilbert came out like a different sqaud in the second game, racing out to a 15-8 lead on the strength of Emily Kemp and Westby kills and the serving of Avery Dolinsek.

The Golden Bears held on to their big lead until the Spartans went on a scoring run with Madi Owens serving and suddenly it was a 23-19 game.

“We didn’t come out and play very well in that second game,” Noonan said. “But I do like how we came back and never gave up.”

Eveleth-Gilbert had a 24-21 lead in the game with Nashwauk-Keewatin senior Taylor Williams serving but a Mikayla Kibbe block at the net gave the Golden Bears a 25-21 win to tie the match at 1-1.

“It was great to come back and win that second game,” Bittman said. “That really pumped us up.”

Game three was a back and forth contest with the biggest lead that either team had in the game was when Evelth-Gilbert had a 14-9 lead after a Kemp kill.

But the Spartans fought their way back in to the game and took advantage of a pair of Gangl Kills and the serving of Williams, to escape with a 25-22 win, to take a 2-1 match lead.

“I did see a lot of good things in that third game,” Noonan said. “On offense and defense, we played well.”

Game four was all Golden Bears.

They raced out to a 9-3 lead on the strengh of a pair of Kibbe kills and the serving from Dosan.

“It was great to see us get that lead quick,” Bittman said. “That was what we talked about before the game started. We knew we had to get to that early lead.”

They had the lead and never looked back, coasting to the 25-12 win to tie the match at 2-2 and forcing a fifth game.

Game five was a back and forth contest until it was a 5-5 game.

After the game was tied, the Spartans took advantage of some Eveleth-Gilbert net errors and coasted to the 15-7 victory, to clinch the match.

“It was a win,” Noonan said. “We still have a lot of work to do and that will start now. We have a week off before our next match.”

The 1-0 Spartans will host Chisholm next Thursday.

The Golden Bears will be right back in action on Tuesday, when they also host Chicholm.

“I did see some good things tonight,” Bittman said. “We have work to do. We have some big hitters but our passing hurt us tonight. I am ver excited for this season with this group of girls.”

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