Sitting in the cellar of the North Division at 0-2 with a long road trip and the unbeaten Mesabi Lady Norsemen looming on the horizon, the Central Lakes College Raiders volleyball team knew just how big Wednesday night's match against Hibbing was.
The Raiders answered the rallying call and thwarted the Cardinals 30-23, 30-24 and 30-18 for their first division win.
"It was a huge win," Raiders coach Jane Peterson said. "There's a big difference being 1-2 and 0-3 in the division. We're at the bottom but I think there's a lot of parity in the division."
There was no parity this night as the Raiders used a energized offense and a scrappy defense to overwhelm the outmatched Cardinals.
CLC middle hitter Val Diedrich led the Raiders with 13 kills. Outside hitter Jenny Skiba added 11 kills and middle hitter Jessica Melheim chipped in with 9. Setter Abby Leach chalked up 45 set assists and, as Peterson points out, is a big reason the offense is starting to click.
"Abby's making better decisions now and that provides for a more powerful offense," Peterson said. "She's getting the ball to the right person."
The Raiders jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead in the first game. But like games past, CLC let the Cardinals come back and take the lead away as Hibbing ran off six straight points to take an 11-6 lead.
Down 17-12, the Raiders rattled off a run of their own, this time 11 points, behind three Diedrich kills and superb serving from Tracy Bell to take back the lead for good.
Hibbing's fate was sealed in the next two games as once the Raiders got the lead, they wouldn't relinquish it, which wasn't the case a week ago for CLC.
"We served a lot more aggressively than last week," Peterson said, "and that's about not being behind by 10 points.
"We haven't worked on our offense too much because it's our strength. We changed our serve-receive a little bit so we could be more consistent. It's nowhere near perfect but it is improving so as a coach you have to look at that as a success."
Defense was another area where the Raiders showed their mettle as they dove for balls and kept volleys alive.
"The defense was actually really good," said Leach. "We were picking up a lot of balls and we were talking as a team. The communication was really good."
Peterson attributed the Raiders' defensive play to the fact that she's more decided on a lineup.
"I think our defense is due to a more consistent lineup," said Peterson. "Because we have to work on consistency, we can't make all the substitutions I'd like to."
One player that has helped Peterson and the Raiders have a more consistent lineup is Skiba. The freshmen from Onamia joined the team late, but she hasn't missed a beat.
"Jenny has the potential to be a good blocker and a good, smart attacker," Peterson said. "She has a little tougher mentality than the rest of us and I think that's what we need."
Abby Leach 45 set assists, 1 ace serve, 1 kill
Lexie Palo 8 kills, 3 ace serves, 2 digs
Toni Elyea 10 digs
Tracy Bell 3 ace serves, 5 digs
Kandi Ketz 2 kills, 1 set assists, 9 digs
Jessica Melheim 9 kills, 3 blocks
Kristin Olson 8 kills, 3 blocks
Val Diedrich 13 kills, 7 digs, 2 blocks
Jenny Skiba 11 kills, 1 ace serve, 1 dig, 2 blocks
Conference -- CLC 1-2. Overall -- CLC 2-5. Next game -- CLC at Mesabi 6:30 p.m. Friday.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.