Northland Pines junior Hadley Olivotti sets the ball for a teammate. She finished with eight assists.
Northland Pines junior Hadley Olivotti sets the ball for a teammate. She finished with eight assists.
The Northland Pines Eagles girls volleyball team played one of their best second halves of a match so far this season, but even being up 13-11 with the serve in hand wasn’t a sure thing as the Medford Raiders prevailed in five sets last week, winning 3-2 over Pines in the Great Northern Conference (GNC) opener.

“The girls had a decision to make and they chose not to give up, but instead to fight,” coach Julie Smith said. “I am very proud of how they did to not let the first two sets determine their abilities as a team. This is just the first conference match, and I am excited to see the growth of the team as the season progresses.”

Medford was able to get into an early groove, taking the first set 25-16 and then following it up with a 25-14 win in the second to put themselves just one set away from a sweep.

“We definitely started the night off playing very timid and not the way that this team can play,” said  Smith. “The first two sets were quiet on the court, no aggressive net play from us, and on top of that, Medford was not giving anything up.

“We tried to adjust our offense to their defense, however Medford covered their floor very well.”

Pines then recovered nicely to take some momentum back in a tight third set, winning 25-23. They controlled the fourth set, winning 25-18 and leading from start to finish to push the match to a deciding fifth set.

“Finding Medford’s weak serve receiver was difficult until the third set when Paris Croker started her serving run,” Smith said. “There was a lot of great play in the second half of the match and it was great to see the energy rise in the field house.”

In the fifth set neither team was able to grab control early.

Pines began on serve and put their first one into the net to give Medford the ball back, up 1-0. They’d go up right away by a 2-0 count before Pines recovered and kept the game close, until at 8-8 they made a run, gaining a two-point advantage at 13-11 and forcing Medford to take a time out.

The Raiders responded, taking advantage of another Pines serving miscue to tie the game at 13-3 as Smith used back-to-back time outs to try and stymie the late Medford rally.

Medford would take it to 14-13, and with a chance to tie on a ball at the net, the Pines offense pushed an attack just inches wide of the floor on the right, sealing the match for Medford 15-13.

“Maleea Eggleston kept us alive from the back row with her defense,” Smith said. “Medford was definitely targeting attacks for our middle back. She was the leader tonight in digs and kills at the net from her smart placement of the ball.”

Croker had a big night offensively and defensively at the net for Pines.

“She hit with a lot of power from the middle,” Smith said. “We altered our offense to adjust to the calls and with that, Huelskamp led with 19 assists followed by Hadley Olivotti with eight and Camryn Cox with five.

“We will be working hard on being better on defense and gaining confidence to spread out our offense more,” Smith said.

Samantha Haiduk was 37-of-37 in serve receives for Pines. Croker had eight service aces on the night while Eggleston had 14 kills followed by 12 from Croker, seven from Madi Meisenberg and three from Huelskamp.

Eggleston led the team with 20 digs followed by 11 from Haiduk and nine each from Huelskamp and Meis­enberg.

The team also competed at the Merrill Invite this past weekend, and at Rhinelander Tuesday, but stats were not available as of press time.

The team will head to face Wausau East this Thursday in a nonconference match, and will resume conference play this coming Tuesday, hosting Tomahawk.