HANCOCK - The Hancock Bulldogs came away a double winner from their first dual match of the season Tuesday.
Not only did they gain a 3-1 (25-21, 25-15, 23-25, 25-16) decision over Chassell, they both showed improvement and provided a base for further instruction.
"It's early and we all have things to work on and that's a good thing," Hancock coach Mary Kaminski said.
Hancock setter Nicole Anderson punches the ball over the net against the block of Chassell’s Maddie Huhta during the second set of Tuesday’s non-league match in Hancock. The Bulldogs won 3-1. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
One thing that makes learning easier is having previous work to build on. Hancock played in the Kingsford Invitational a week and a half ago, while Chassell arrived for its first live game action of the season.
"They came out strong, they came out excited. They actually moved beyond some of the mistakes, whether it was nerves, whether it was whatever," Kaminski said.
Some of the Bulldogs' returners keyed the effort. Senior Taylor Mattson had 15 kills and senior libero Jen Hannon had 17 digs, team-leading numbers in both categories.
Chassell claimed an early 5-1 lead, but the first set wasn't decided until the Bulldogs ran off five points in a row at the end, including a Mattson kill on set point.
Hancock took over the second fairly early, scoring eight in a row on Nicole Anderson's serve. Anderson threw in an ace, both Mattson and senior middle Claire Meyer had kills and the Bulldogs went up 12-5, then 16-7. When Anderson came around to serve again, she finished the second set off with an ace off a Panther player's shoulder.
After a six-point rotation in which Amanda Manninen had a pair of aces, the Bulldogs appeared poised to sweep with a lead as big as 17-11. However, the Panthers picked up their game to its highest point of the night, running off seven points in a row, including one of Ann Ruohonen's five aces, to take a small lead.
Hancock pulled ahead again at 20-19, but Chassell scored the last four points to keep the match alive.
Chassell has been using a setter-by-committee approach in the early going as it tries to get sophomore Lindsey Johnson up to speed. Panther coach Gael Filpus said Johnson started to have success in the role and it carried over.
"They just ended up clicking and I guess, just wanted that game more," Filpus said.
The good feeling ended up being rather short-lived. After Chassell scored the first two points of the fourth set, Hancock ran off the next 11, including two aces, on Shannon Anderson's serve.
"Our serve receive wasn't very well today. We were hesitant, we were second-guessing, not being aggressive," Filpus said.
Chassell never got closer than seven the rest of the way. Shannon Anderson threw in two more aces as the Bulldogs pushed the Panthers to the brink, and after Chassell fended off three match points, Nicole Anderson dumped the second ball over for the match-winning kill.
Nicole Anderson posted 31 assists, while Shannon Anderson had six kills and a team-best four aces.
Though the Bulldogs had 15 aces as a team, Kaminski cautioned that it wasn't necessarily a great serving night because of too many errors, particularly early.
"Humidity makes a big difference, as does adrenaline, and they were all very happy that they calmed down. You need to adjust," she said.
Hancock will have its chance to improve at home Thursday against Lake Linden-Hubbell.
Chassell got a match-best four kills from Ruohonen, with three more from Maddie Huhta and Kirsten Daavettila. She and Karli Michaels had 10 digs apiece in the back row.
The Panthers host Dollar Bay Thursday.