HANCOCK - Chassell went the distance with Hancock Thursday and stood tallest in the final round for a 3-2 (22-25, 31-29, 25-23, 14-25, 15-6) non-conference victory.
"I feel like I played the game myself," Chassell coach Gael Filpus said. "I think both teams have gotten a lot better since (a 3-1 win over Hancock Aug. 29 in Chassell), it's just a matter of who wanted it more today."
Chassell could have been diagnosed as out of steam when, after three extremely close sets, it was never really in the fourth. But Chassell won the first two points in the fifth and never trailed, finishing it off with five in a row.
Chassell’s Lexi Pyykkonen reaches up to tip a ball during the first set of Thursday’s non-league volleyball match at Hancock as teammate Madeline Huhta looks on. The Panthers won 3-2. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
"I just told them, 'We didn't come this far to lose two games in a row,' and then, they just rose to the occasion and they wanted it," Filpus said.
For Hancock, there was too much misfiring offensively down the stretch.
"So many unforced errors and we started not trusting each other and not communicating on the court. When they got off to that first run initially, we were running into each other and we just could not get our offense running smoothly at all tonight," coach Kristan Schuster said.
The last meeting between the two was close, with none of the four sets decided by more than four points, so it probably didn't come as a surprise that the rematch was tight from the start.
Chassell led the first set 16-13 at one point, but neither side had strung together more than three points in a row until Hancock ran off four, including an ace, from Nicole Anderson's serve to turn a 22-21 deficit into a first set victory.
There were a few more runs in set two, but they ended up canceling each other out as the score climbed. Between the teams, Chassell failed to convert five set points and Hancock two, but the Panthers sixth attempt proved successful as a Hancock attack went just long on set point at 30-29.
Consecutive kills from Hancock junior middle hitter Allie Berryman tied the third set at 23, but an even more clutch counter was delivered from Chassell junior Annie Ruohonen, whose block kills on the next two points gave Chassell a 2-1 lead.
"She's finally getting aggressive at the net, and finally understands that it means it's OK to do that," Filpus said.
Whatever momentum Chassell may have gotten from the exciting way in which it took the lead dissipated quickly. Hancock rattled off seven points in a row, including three aces from Anderson, to jump out to a 10-2 lead in the fourth set. Chassell got back to 12-8, but no closer.
"I just think they were mentally tired and physically tired," Filpus said.
Hancock foot-faulted on the first point of the fifth set and never did better than a tie the rest of the way. From 4-4, Chassell assembled runs of three, three and five to close it out.
Jamie Dompier amassed 29 digs at the libero position for the Panthers as their defense held Hancock to a team total of 23 kills in five sets.
"We've got to go back and keep working on our attack. We have to put up an offense that's going to make teams scramble a little bit more," Schuster said.
Hancock's offense was led by seven kills from Katelyn Anderson and four apiece from Amanda Manninen and Lily Williams. Katelyn Anderson also had three aces.
Hancock's dig leader was libero Jen Hannon, with 20.
"I think our defense is really strong. Jen Hannon continues to amaze me. She's such a solid force in the backcourt. She passes well, she reads the ball pretty well," Schuster said.
Katelyn Anderson added 10 digs for the Bulldogs, who won the JV match 2-1 and are at home Tuesday against L'Anse.
For Chassell, Kirstin Daavettila and Kaitlyn Hietala had five kills apiece with Ruohonen adding four. Lexi Pyykkonen had 14 assists.
Chassell returns home Tuesday for an important Mountain Lakes Conference match against Lake Linden-Hubbell.