BARAGA - Tuesday night's volleyball matchup between Baraga and Lake Linden-Hubbell may not have been the down-to-the-wire thriller their matchup on Sept. 2 was, but it still showed how evenly the two teams play each other.
The Vikings could not take the Lakes to five games like they did in their previous contest, but they still fought the Lakes for every point in a 26-24, 29-27, 25-15 losing effort. While the Vikings have not been able to quite defeat the Lakes, they have still brought their A-game both times the two teams have met.
"They certainly play us tough, they're a much better team than their record is right now," LL-H coach Nathan Barber said. "I thought they'd be competing for the league title, and I still think they're going to be tough their remaining games."
Lake Linden-Hubbell’s Siranda Normand receives a serve in Tuesday night’s match against Baraga as teammate Abbie Beauchamp looks on. The Lakes defeated the Vikings 3-0.
Baraga nearly stole the first game away from Lake Linden-Hubbell, as it jumped out to an early lead and held a 19-16 lead late in the game. But the serving of the Lakes' Hillary Sundblad and two kills by Tori Roose gave them seven straight points to give LL-H a 23-19 lead.
Unfazed by the sudden change in momentum, the Vikings stormed back with five straight points of their own to get a game point at 24-23. But kills by Kim Outinen and Ellen Englund helped LL-H to three straight points and a victory in game one.
"We went down early in that first game," Barber said. "I'm glad we answered them right back."
Game two was a similar game of runs, as the Lakes appeared to have the game in hand at numerous points. Just as Baraga had closed to 12-11 off an Elisa Reynolds kill, LL-H went on an 8-2 run using aces from Amanda McMichael and Roose. But once again, Baraga would not go down, getting multiple kills from Gabby Jukkala and two straight aces from Chelsea Paynter to tie the score at 22.
Both teams traded off points until a Paynter kill gave the Vikings another game point at 24-23. Yet the Lakes staved off elimination and survived another two game points before winning the last four points for the win.
"We're learning how to win those tight games," Barber said. "I'd just as soon not have those tight games, but we won."
Baraga took an early lead in game three, but could not hold off a late Lakes onslaught, as a 12-12 tie quickly shifted to a 20-13 LL-H lead.
Lake Linden won 13 of the last 16 points of the game, and Roose sealed the victory with a pair of aces.
Even with the loss, Baraga coach Peggy Reinsch was happy with her team's performance.
"I think they (Baraga) played very well, Lake Linden's always a big challenge," Reinsch said. "We're reworking the offense a little bit, changing people around ... so it's still kind of young and fresh.
"We made a few mistakes along the way in terms of who's playing where and who's covering but we're learning," Reinsch continued. "We're going to work on it, and it'll get better."
Reinsch was especially impressed with her team's serving.
"We served well, we served really aggressively with more aces than errors," Reinsch said.
For Lake Linden-Hubbell, Amanda McMichael led the offense with six kills and also added a pair of blocks. Brita Heikkinen put up 21 assists and had five kills, while Hillary Sundblad put down four kills. On the defensive side, Siranda Normand notched a match-high 16 digs.
For Baraga, the seniors led the way, as Jukkala, Reynolds and Melissa Turriff all had at least nine digs. Fellow senior Chelsea Paynter ran the offense with 11 assists, while Reynolds and Jukkala had five kills apiece.
Next up for the Vikings is a visit to L'Anse Tuesday, while Lake Linden-Hubbell is in action again Thursday, hosting Houghton.
Zach Kukkonen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org