Both teams had finished second in their division, Ironwood in the East and Washburn in the West. Both were considered real good teams. and it figured to be a close match.
“It was really was a good game,” Ironwood coach Lisa Graham said. “This was one of our best nights of the year, even though we lost. It was all-around, good volleyball. It’s the type of volleyball we want to be playing at the end of the year. We fought back from two sets down. We hung with them and could have won. In the fifth game, we just dug ourselves too deep a hole. I wish we could have found a way to win.”
Ironwood’s Mariah Beaudette, who was on fire Thursday night with with 15 kills, seven blocks and four aces, was in agreement with her coach.
“Everyone played their best game,” Beaudette said. “Washburn’s a great challenge, but we had great passes, blocks and hits. I’m proud of our team. This was the best we played all year.”
The Red Devils stayed close in the first game of the night, but the Castle Guards pulled away down the stretch and finished with two kills and an ace from Nadia Nevala to win 25-19.
With the score tied 10-10 in the second set, Jessica Gering began serving. The Red Devils reeled off seven straight points, highlighted by Beaudette’s block and a left-handed kill by Emily DiGiorgio. They led 17-10.
But Washburn slowly narrowed the lead with a big slam from Grace Armstrong and an ace from Candace Huewe. Gering’s kill nipped the back-line to keep Ironwood up 24-20, but the Castle Guards won seven of the last eight points to take the set, 27-25.
One positive development for the Devils was the play of Alyssa Huotari.
“Alyssa stepped into a starting role,” Graham said. “Her passing and defense were good and she did an excellent job.”
The third game was nip-and-tuck until a little over the mid-way point of the set. With the score tied at 15-15 and Huotari and Katie Erickson serving well, Ironwood surged and won 10 of 11 points. Most of Ironwood’s points came off Beaudette’s kills, blocks and aces and Washburn seemed to sag mentally and made a lot of mistakes.
Game four saw the two evenly-matched teams tied at 13-13 after two service aces from Washburn’s Kierstyn Fibert.
Washburn went ahead 23-22, but Gering’s push shot fell in and Beaudette’s booming kill gave Ironwood a 24-23 advantage. With the score deadlocked at 24-24, the Castle Guards had a service violation and Beaudette finished off the set with another kill.
The fifth set was to 15-points and once again it started with a 4-4 tie. But two kills by Angelica Roasale and a shot into the net by Ironwood boosted Washburn to an 8-4 lead.
Graham said a number of Ironwood players played well.
“Jess Gering was all over the court for us, Mariah did very well and Sarah Johnson was really into the match and played well,” Graham said.
Besides Beaudette’s big night, Johnson and Gering nailed six kills and notched three blocks. DiGiorgio had four kills and Erickson dished out 35 assists.
Mike Meierotto, one of Washburn’s three coaches along with his wife, Chelsea, and daughter, Wendy, was more complimentary of Ironwood than his own team.
“They (Ironwood) spread the ball around and we didn’t cover the back-row of the floor very well,” Meierotto said. “We missed too many serves and had lots of mental errors. They took us out of our game. Number 10 (Beaudette) and Grace Armstrong (Washburn) played well on offense and defense.”
The junior varsity teams split two games.
The Red Devils (12-2) will play in the Dollar Bay triangular on Tuesday at 6 p.m. CDT.