It was apparent early on that the Aberdeen Bobcats are a much improved volleyball team when compared to recent history.
It still wasn’t enough to overcome an impressive Hoquiam Grizzlies team.
Despite a gritty effort from the young Bobcats to stay competitive, Hoquiam proved to be too much in the Grizzlies’ 25-16, 25-22 and 25-16 victory in a Myrtle Street Rivalry game on Tuesday in Aberdeen.
Playing the back end of two games in two days, Hoquiam (3-1 overall) showed no signs of fatigue against a charged-up Aberdeen squad playing in front of its home crowd for the first time this season.
Both teams looked to be in good form, limiting errors and playing a hustling brand of volleyball that led to several long volleys in Game 1.
Hoquiam senior setter Ella Folkers found middle blocker Chloe Kennedy for three straight kills as Hoquiam pulled away with an early 9-5 lead.
But the current version of the Bobcats (0-1) kept battling, pulling to within two points at 14-12 after two straight aces by junior outside hitter Cameryn Micheau.
The Grizzlies didn’t break as Folkers continued to find Hoquiam’s heavy hitters in Kennedy, Faith Prosch and Ashlinn Cady while libero Graci Bonney-Spradlin went on a long service streak to help put Game 1 away.
In Game 2, it was Aberdeen that took a 12-8 lead on the back of an Emmersyn Yakovich ace and the stellar defense of junior libero Claire Mottinger, who was diving all over the court in recording a team best 14 digs.
“They were one heck of a team when it came to digging,” Folkers said of her crosstown rivals. “(Mottinger) was great, their digging was great, but we didn’t give up.”
Showing their experience, Hoquiam rallied to tie the game at 13-all when a strong Folkers serve was mishandled and the Grizzlies later extended the lead to 20-16 when a Bobcats shot was sent past the line.
Aberdeen responded with Micheau recording a kill followed by a Hoquiam shot that went long to cut the Grizzlies lead to 23-22.
But Hoquiam would once again make the plays when it counted as Folkers fed Kennedy then junior Kristina Goulet for kills to secure the Game 2 win.
In the third game, Hoquiam scored the first four points before Aberdeen tied the game at 6-6 on a Shyanna Patrick kill after a long rally.
That was as close as Aberdeen would get as the Grizzlies’ killer instinct came to bear. Hoquiam outscored Aberdeen 13-2 over the subsequent several minutes as Folkers found a rhythm, setting up her hitters with picture-perfect passes that led to easy kills and a 19-8 lead.
Aberdeen rallied to cut the deficit to 21-15 after three straight Hoquiam reception errors, but it wasn’t enough as Hoquiam would hold on for the 25-16 win in Game 3, and the straight-set victory.
“I think by the second set, we started to feel our rhythm,” said Folkers, who commended the passing of her backcourt as being key to her recording a staggering 29 assists in the game. “We ran (the offense) quick and moved around the block quite often, so we were able to run things you don’t typically see. (My teammates) were aggressive and smart.”
Folkers also had 10 digs in the game.
A trio of Hoquiam hitters had solid all-around games on Monday. Kennedy finished with a game high 12 kills to go along with seven digs while Prosch (10 kills, 7 digs) and Cady (7 kills, 5 digs) led Hoquiam with three aces apiece.
“What I was proud about was that even when we lost (the long volleys), we’d win the next point. Usually, that’s a big momentum shifter, but they stuck with it,” Hoquiam head coach Heather Bozich said of her team. “Our theme right now is, ‘Next ball, just focus on the next ball.’ … We really focused getting our feet to the ball, the fundamentals of passing and staying calm in the back row.”
Aberdeen — which has just one senior on its roster — was led by Mottinger’s 14 digs while Micheau recorded 15 assists and three aces for the Bobcats.
On offense, Aberdeen was led by Strickland’s seven kills, with Yakovich (3 kills, 10 digs) and Lilly Camp (3 kills, 3 blocks) also filling up the stat sheet.
“We work a lot on defense because we’ve never been a really tall team. So we like to be scrappy,” said Aberdeen head coach Desiree Glanz, who added her team has been working hard at the mental aspects of the game. “We want to all mesh as a team and keep each other going and I didn’t see anything opposite of that tonight. Everyone was trying to keep each other pumped. That was a big key for us tonight, just staying with each other.”
Both teams are scheduled to compete at a tournament at North Beach High School on Saturday in Ocean Shores.
Hoquiam 25 25 25 — 3
Aberdeen 16 22 16 — 0