ELKO – The Elko volleyball came up with one of most notable wins of the season Friday, surviving one of its worst games Saturday.
The Lady Indians defeated Fernley in four sets Friday night but had to stave off elimination in consecutive sets and barely beat Fallon in five frames on Saturday afternoon.
The Lady Indians played their best set against Fernley in the opening frame, starting the match with a 25-16 victory.
The Lady Vaqueros increased their level of play in the second set, notching their only victory in a close, 28-26 battle in extra points.
In the final two sets, Elko hung on for victories in extra points in each frame, closing the match with 27-25 victories in the third and fourth sets.
Elko’s win avenged back-to-back losses against the Lady Vaqueros, Fernley winning the silver bracket championship on Aug. 26 in the Yerington tournament, two sets to one.
The Lady Vaqueros beat the Lady Indians in five sets in Division 3A North play on Sept. 8 in Fernley.
Despite Friday’s victory, Elko struggled in several facets.
The Lady Indians made 12 service errors and struggled in their serve-receive game mightily.
Elko can thank their hitters for the victory.
The Lady Indians tallied 56 kills as a team.
Junior Elena Howe led the hard-hitting attack with 20 putaways, followed by 16 kills from senior Lexi Baum.
Howe also served a team-best three aces, tying junior Alexis Elquist and sophomore Cassie Spence with three blocks apiece.
Senior Ashley Mountford dished a team-high 27 assists, followed by 22 dimes from Howe.
Defensively, the Lady Indians were led by 28 digs from junior Jacqueline Pete, gaining 21 digs by senior Mollie Gallagher and 19 bumps from Baum.
The victory improved Elko’s league record in the 3A North to 6-3 and dropped Fernley to 7-3.
The Lady Vaqueros improved to 8-3 in league play Saturday with a straight-set win over the Lady Spartans in Spring Creek.
After a three-set win on Sept. 9 in Fallon, many thought Elko would cruise to another easy victory on Saturday at Centennial Gymnasium.
The Lady Greenwave never got the memo and Elko’s best game never showed up to the contest.
Elko made simple errors on Fallon serves, let softly-hit balls drop into open areas of the floor and fell behind big in the early going.
Fallon built leads of 14-6 and 20-10, rolling to a 25-17 victory in the first set.
The Lady Indians responded with a 25-22 victory in the second set, but Elko was still very much off its game.
One of the main reasons for Elko’s struggles and Fallon’s successes was the fact that the Lady Indians’ middle block was nowhere to be found.
Every time the Lady Indians managed to claw back in the game or take a lead, an error followed.
Miscommunication, or lack of communication altogether, also hurt the Lady Indians – several plays resulting in teammates crashing into one another on the same shots.
Fallon took the third set 25-23 and took a 2-1 lead in the match, placing Elko up against elimination in the best-of-five format.
Facing the possibility of losing and trying to figure out a way to change the flow of the game and outcome of the match, Elko coach Cammie Nelson needed a spark.
Enter Baum in the middle.
“I made a lineup change and moved Lexi to the middle from the outside. Our middle block hadn’t done anything to that point. When Lexi plays well, she is our spark. Everyone follows her lead,” Nelson said.
The tactic paid off in a big way.
Baum made some emphatic swats, adding some kills while using both remarkable power and also well-placed, finesse drop shots.
As Nelson noted, right on key, Elko’s other players settled in mentally but also found a surge of energy and intensity.
The Lady Indians began to show their potential and rolled to a 25-13 victory, forcing a winner-take-all race to 15.
Elko fell behind in the beginning of the fifth set but took a 6-5 lead, extending to a 13-8 advantage.
After winning a point, the match came to a close with a rocket drive by Howe on a crosscourt shot from the left to the right, 15-8 Elko.
Despite playing sloppily for much of the day, Elko finally showed the grit and resolve to win a match it could have easily lost.
Howe paced the Elko offense for majority of the match, leading the teams with 16 kills and 21 assists, adding three blocks.
Baum’s transition to the middle provided massive dividends for the Lady Indians, as she swatted a team-best six blocks, adding eight kills.
Pete topped the Lady Indians with 29 digs, followed by 17 digs from Howe.
Mountford closed with 18 assists and 15 digs.
Elquist led the Lady Indians with two aces, coming up with 15 digs defensively.
“Lexi struggled early but I took a chance and made the lineup change in the fourth set. I knew it was a gamble; either it wasn’t going to work or it was going to change the momentum and pay off for us. I’m glad she played well and that it worked out the way it did,” Nelson said. “For some reason, we always play our worst matches on Saturday. We have to bring the same intensity and play every match as well as we can.”
Elko improved to 7-3 in league play of the 3A North, dropping Fallon to 4-7.
After playing a road-heavy schedule in the first half of the season, the Lady Indians will close the final half of the season with just one game away from Elko.
The Lady Indians will host South Tahoe at 6 p.m. Friday and Dayton at noon Saturday at Centennial Gymnasium.