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Prep Volleyball: Hancock defends home court with 3-2 win over Negaunee

Hancock's Ellie Sturos (2), Jordan Pertile (4) and Laura Fenton celebrate during a game against Negaunee on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, in Hancock, Mich. (Adam Niemi/The Daily Mining Gazette)

HANCOCK — One of their themes this season has been protecting home court.

On Tuesday, the Hancock Bulldogs did just that with a five-set win over Negaunee.

The Bulldogs won by scores of 25-22, 21-25, 25-22, 21-25 and 15-10.

“I think that was huge,” Hancock head coach Elle Heinonen said. “I think in that fifth set they came together and really fought and showed who they were as a team and defended their home court.”

Hancock took a 4-0 lead to start the fifth set before the Miners battled back to tie it. Negaunee tied the set twice after that but the Bulldogs grabbed the lead each time. Hancock was fast on the floor, holding onto momentum with a truckload of digs.

Jordan Pertile and Laura Fenton led the Bulldogs with 62 combined digs, including 34 from Pertile.

“We’ve been working on that. We have a saying called ‘ball no hit ground,'” Heinonen said. “I think that they showed that tonight. We talk about relentless defense and I think that’s what showed up tonight. They didn’t let anything land.”

The Miners won the second and third sets 25-21 both times. Chasing the lead in the fifth proved to be too much, but Negaunee head coach Sarah MacDonald liked the energy.

“There was great passing and a lot of good defense on both sides,” she said. “Everybody had the energy to play hard.”

The Bulldogs’ defense was helped by something else they’ve emphasized in practice — communication.

“The game of volleyball, there’s a lot of communication and that’s huge — keeping your momentum and communicating with each other — that flow of your game. I think we’re gradually getting better and better. That’s something we’re working on and I’m teaching them about the game is learning to talk to each other and learn to talk about what’s going on on the other side. They’re getting better.”

Neither team held a big lead throughout the night. The Bulldogs and Miners had their own three- or four-point leads. Hancock’s five-point margin of victory in the fifth set was the largest of the night for either team.

Taking the 4-0 lead to start the fifth was another area of focus for the Bulldogs, who lost a couple recent five-set matches. A slow start in the fifth set has become a regular thing. Until Tuesday.

“I think that was our problem in the last few five-set games that we’ve had that we didn’t pull out. We started out a little slow,” Heinonen said. “That was what we talked about before going out on the court is coming out strong and continuing that throughout the game. I think they did that well.”

The win helps bring confidence to a young Hancock team that’s been hesitant to assert and maintain control on the floor.

“I think that was huge for us. We had lost our last two sets in five and I think we just had to get over that little hump of believing we could do it and actually doing it. I’m really proud of them,” Heinonen said. “Tonight, they came out and fought really hard for that fifth set. I think we’re still figuring out the consistency of our game, but being able to pull out a five-set win is huge for us. Now starts a winning streak.”

ALSO: Calumet swept Ishpeming by scores of 25-10, 25-17 and 25-6. The Copper Kings were led by Molly Larson’s 11 kills. Calumet had 48 digs, including 13 from Cami Johnson.

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