HANCOCK - The Hancock and Lake Linden-Hubbell volleyball teams started each set Thursday with close back-and-forth play, but the rest of each set belonged to the Bulldogs.
The hosts' pace of play overwhelmed the inexperienced Lakes, as Hancock rolled to a convincing 3-0 (25-21, 25-19, 25-12) non-conference victory.
"Lake Linden won the West Iron County tournament, so we knew they might have some confidence - winning a tournament would give any team confidence - so we had to be prepared, and it looks like the ladies were," Hancock coach Mary Kaminski said. "I'm very happy."
Hancock's Allison Berryman earns a kill past the block attempt of Lake Linden-Hubbell's Ciara Larson during the second set of the Bulldogs' 3-0 non-conference match win over the Lakes Thursday night in Hancock. (DMG photo by Stephen Anderson)
It was a much different feeling for LL-H coach Karen Keranen on the visitors' bench, as she watched her usually scrappy, talented Lakes squad struggle mightily, particularly with their backs against the wall.
"I've never seen where a whole team was off like that," she said. "We never showed up. Hancock came ready to play against us, and we just were not ready."
The Lakes, though, were neck and neck with the Bulldogs to start the match, as they answered a seven-point Hancock run with a six-point run of their own, eventually leading to a 16-16 tie. But after that, the hosts scored eight of the next 11 points. LL-H put together a short three-point burst, but an Amanda Manninen kill ended the closest set of the night.
Hancock senior Taylor Mattson opened up the second set with three of her match-high four aces, but several errors allowed LL-H to tie the set at 6-all. Again, though, Hancock pulled away late, as Nicole Anderson effectively set up Mattson, Shannon Anderson, Allison Berryman and Manninen with at least two kills each. LL-H senior Ciara Larson had five of her six kills in the middle set as well, plus a big block, but the Lakes just didn't have enough answers for Hancock's speed.
"It was the fastest swinging, fastest tipping team we had experienced," Keranen said.
"When you haven't seen that level yet, and all of a sudden you see it, you're going to do one of two things: be challenged by it and pick up the pace, or be intimidated. Unfortunately, they were intimidated, and I didn't know how to get them out of it."
Keranen noted how even her experienced players looked intimidated, and that manifested itself in the third set. Mattson opened the set with one of her game-high nine kills, followed by her final ace. LL-H never strung together more than two consecutive points, and an eight-point run on Shannon Anderson's serve all but clinched the win.
"Good team communication helped a lot," Kaminski said. "We're making good steps forward and working out some of the kinks in communication."
Nicole Anderson led the way with 26 assists as setter, and Jen Hannon kept rallies going with 25 digs during the match.
Sarah Audette led LL-H in assists, but with only eight, and Erin Gast was the Lakes' dig leader with 16 - three others had at least eight. Julia Hendrickson had three aces in defeat.
Kaminski was impressed with her depth, as several players contributed off the bench late in the third set, and Keranen embraced the match as a valuable learning experience.
Hancock hosts L'Anse in a WestPAC battle Tuesday, while Lake Linden-Hubbell will stay once again play a WestPAC team in non-conference play at Houghton, also on Tuesday.