MONTESANO — Both figuratively and literally, Hoquiam dug deep to take the season’s first Evergreen 1A League volleyball showdown.
Overcoming a late arrival, a strong Montesano attack and a possible scoring error in the fifth set, the Grizzlies used excellent defense to outlast the Bulldogs, 20-25, 25-20, 25-22, 19-25, 15-12, in a battle of unbeatens Tuesday at Bo Griffith Memorial Gym.
Four Grizzlies — Emma Estes, Bailee Bradley, Mikaila Johnson and Olivia Rose — delivered at least nine kills and sophomore setter Megan Gibson (the daughter of Montesano coach Debbie Gibson) dished out 44 assists.
Nevertheless, the difference in this intensely played contest might have been defense.
The Bulldogs, with Myranda Floch slamming 17 kills and freshman Jordan Spradlin 13, stayed on the attack for much of the contest. Hoquiam (6-0, 8-0) was able to consistently prolong points, however, by digging up many of the spikes.
Senior libero Brandi Creviston had 26 digs, the last coming on the final point of the match. The Grizzlies also received strong back-row play from the likes of Haley Bell, Kelci Parker and Bradley.
“I’ve never been more proud in my life,” HHS coach Heather Bozich beamed. “We played so many big points and came out on the winning end.”
“I felt offensively they were OK,” Coach Gibson said of her club, “but we got outplayed defensively. That’s not a custom for us, so that’s something we’ll work on and do better on next time.”
Gibson also decried what she described as poor decisions on the part of her club in the final set.
Dominating the latter stages of the fourth set, the Bulldogs (5-1, 7-1) appeared to have the momentum entering the final stanza. Their previously solid hitting then turned erratic and they led only at 1-0 in the fifth set.
Three consecutive Monte hitting errors seemingly gave the Grizzlies an 8-4 lead. Following a prolonged discussion between officials and scorekeepers, however, the score was officially changed to 7-6, with Hoquiam still on top.
Although the Grizzlies never relinquished the edge, the Bulldogs trimmed the deficit to 11-10 when Cortney Miller’s hit was blocked wide.
Estes answered with a kill, and a bad Monte pass made it 13-10. Spradlin powered a spike through an attempted block, but Johnson’s kill down the left sideline gave the Grizzlies three match points.
The Bulldogs staved off one of those when the Grizzlies hit long. But Creviston’s dig cleared the net and fell into a gap in the Monte defense to close out the match.
In retrospect, the pivotal set probably was the third.
Megan Choate’s ace gave Montesano a 21-18 lead. The Grizzlies responded by taking seven of the final eight points, with Bradley contributing a kill and a block and Estes putting down a kill on set point.
Not the hardest of hitters but very accurate, Estes led Hoquiam’s balanced attack with 14 kills. Bradley had 13, Johnson 12 and Rose nine kills.
Montesano’s Ambi Howell dished out 19 assists. Choate had a fine all-around performance with 22-of-22 serving, including four aces, 13 assists and 10 digs. Madi Studer, also 100 percent from the service line, brought up 21 digs.
Their bus stuck in traffic when the Simpson Avenue Bridge was closed following a fatal accident, the Grizzlies didn’t arrive in Montesano until 6:10 — about 25 minutes after the JV contest was slated to begin. Although what is usually a mandatory third set was eliminated from the JV contest, the varsity match still began at 7:50, about 35 minutes later than the norm.
The Bulldogs took the JV contest, 25-19, 25-12. Hannah Manley was cited for all-around play.
Hoquiam takes the long trip to Forks tonight.