There was good news and bad news for Northeast Community College in its volleyball match Wednesday night.
The good news is that the Hawks defeated Southeastern Community College (now 7-7) to improve to 6-5 on the season.
The bad news? After cruising to victory in the first two games — 25-15 and 25-12 — Northeast opened the door with mistakes and a lack of consistency, and the Blackhawks stepped through to win the next two games 25-21 and 25-20, forcing a deciding fifth game.
“I think the girls kind of sat back on their heels and just expected to win in that third set,” Hawks coach Amanda Schultze said. “I told them you’ve got to get going, you have to finish this, because they’re not going to just be done. Of course we go out there and lose the next two sets.”
At that point, with the help of four kills by Megan Wehrbein and three from Elley Beaver, the Hawks refocused enough to win the match 15-11.
The four kills by Wehrbein, including two early tips to open areas, were followed by an ace serve from Stanton graduate Liz Christiansen that allowed Northeast to gain an early advantage that the Hawks maintained with the help of three kills from Beaver.
In fact, a kill by Beaver set up match point before Norfolk native Carly Hirsch's block clinched Northeast’s 15-11 win and the 3-2 match victory.
“We need to be consistent, stay disciplined the entire match and not let up,” Schultze said.
To open the match, Northeast combined three kills by Beaver and another from Brianna Bauer with four Southeastern attack errors and a service error to forge a 9-1 first-set lead, then continued to hold that lead as the Blackhawks’ blend of good plays and mistakes allowed Northeast to maintain that lead en route to a 25-15 victory.
The Hawks recorded just two attack errors but needed just 12 kills of their own in the win.
The second set was similar, with Northeast totaling only eight kills and committing just four errors, while Southeastern mistakes helped the Hawks build a 13-point lead at 21-8 that became the margin of victory as Northeast closed out the second set 25-12.
The Blackhawks found their offensive attack in the third set, accumulating 17 points from kills and blocks, while Northeast managed just eight kills — four by Beaver. Even though the Hawks closed to within two points twice, at 12-10 and 20-18, they never led during Southeastern’s 25-21 victory.
With newfound confidence, the Blackhawks shook loose from an 11-all tie to pull away in the fourth set, forcing a fifth set with a 25-20 win, even though Northeast re-discovered its offensive attack in the form of a dozen kills from six players.
“We hurt ourselves in the second and third sets. It took us both of those sets to stop making errors,” Schultze said. “We had seven hitting errors in the third set and six in the fourth, and we had five ball-handling errors that we didn’t have in the first two sets, along with missed serves. We just weren’t staying disciplined.”
The Hawks had difficulty defending the Blackhawks’ two most effective players, outside hitter Rachel Bingham (25 kills) and 6-foot-1 sophomore Rachel Malinowski (16 kills), who scored from a variety of positions, including the back row.
“Those two caused problems. They ran a lot of back row attacks, and for some reason, we just struggled to defend those,” Schultze said. “I don’t think we expected that many of them or them to be as hard they were.”
On the night, Beaver led the Hawks with 19 total kills, with Wehrbein contributing 14. Hannah Heppner and Hirsch totaled three blocks apiece, while Caitlin Kumm and Hirsch each served a pair of aces. Jamie Bonifas provided 32 assists, and Josie Sanger added eight.
Defensively, Sanger led the way with 34 digs, followed by Beaver’s 23. MaKayla Davidson and Bonifas each added 15, with Kumm finishing with 14.
Northeast Community College defeats Southeastern Community College
25-15, 25-12, 21-25, 20-25, 15-11
NORTHEAST COMMUNITY COLLEGE (6-5): Jamie Bonifas 1k, 32s, 15d; Caitlin Kumm 2a, 14d; MaKayla Davidson 4s, 15d; Julia Eskens 1d; Carly Hirsch 2k, 2a, 5d; Caitlin Orton 2k, 4d; Elley Beaver 19k, 1s, 23d; Megan Wehrbein 14k, 6d; Hannah Heppner 4k, 2d; Liz Christensen 1s, 1a, 4d; Brianna Bauer 5k; Josie Sanger 8s, 34d.