HANCOCK - Take away the first five minutes of each set Tuesday night between the Hancock and L'Anse volleyball teams, and you might have a different outcome to their WestPAC matchup.
The Bulldogs took advantage of some quick points in each of the four games to pull out a 3-1 victory (25-23, 25-20, 13-25, 25-20). As the pattern went, Hancock would establish an early lead and hold off a furious L'Anse charge to carry the set.
"That's what I told the girls," L'Anse coach Jennifer Wilson said. "If we could have just started out quicker. It was like six points, five points immediately and then we were always fighting from behind. If we could have started off in the lead, I think we could have taken this one but it is hard when you are constantly fighting to catch up."
"It was an interesting match. I thought we would come out really solid and then mentally we lost our focus," Hancock coach Kristan Schuster said. "In that third one we lost it completely. but we did settle down at the end of the match."
Hancock rattled off a 16-6 run to start the first set before seeing the Purple Hornets storm back to tie the game at 23-all.
A service error from L'Anse and then an ace on a floating jump serve from setter Nicole Anderson sealed the first set win, however.
That pattern would continue the rest of the match, with Hancock's strong serving giving the back row of L'Anse fits.
"I kept telling them, 'You have to get an early stop' otherwise they are going to go on those rolls," Wilson said. "That was the thing we struggled with the last time we played them, the serve receive. So of course they took it to us again tonight."
Libero Jen Hannon compiled a seven-point run at the start of the second set with a low, hard serve - including two aces - and Laura Berg helped seal the victory with a five-point run in the fourth.
"I don't know if it is momentum or coincidence or what, but yeah our serve was kind of reflective of our overall play," Schuster said. "It kind of fell apart in that third set, but it started off really strong in that first game. We have a young team, and sometimes they feed off that stuff."
The Purple Hornets took the third set under the direction of middle hitter Valerie Rajala and outside hitter Rebecca Hulkonen. The duo combined for six kills in the set win and each had seven kills for the game. Rajala also chipped in four blocks, with two block kills.
Hancock was led by Katelyn and Nicole Anderson with six kills apiece.
Nicole, the setter, was particularly effective with a second-touch tip over the net.
"She is so athletic, I keep telling her to look for that and she did a great job of it today," Schuster said. "She can be really effective with that move."
The victory gives the Bulldogs their first conference victory of the season. Schuster is hoping the confidence will carry over to the team's matchup with Houghton Thursday.
"It is nice for them to start believing in themselves," Schuster said. "They can go out and compete with any team when they are playing like that."