After disposing of the Gold Beach Panthers in three sets at Gold Beach High School two days earlier, the Del Norte varsity volleyball team made it two consecutive three-set sweeps this week, as the Warriors defeated the Brookings-Harbor Bruins 25-14, 25-13, 25-18 Thursday evening at Thunen Gymnasium.

The home team got off to a quick start in the opening set, as Reece White served six consecutive points, including three aces, giving the Warriors a 6-1 advantage.  The visiting Bruins would get no closer than that five-point deficit, due in large part to precision serving from the home team.  In addition to the three service aces from White, Breann Winningham and Lauren Stutes each contributed two service aces of their own, while Bliss Blackburn and Lili Nunez added one apiece, as the Warriors kept the Bruins from generating any semblance of an offense early.

When the Bruins were able to return serve, it was met by a Warrior net presence of Blackburn, Stutes, Winningham and McKenna Curtis, who combined for eight kills in the opening set alone.

The second stanza was equally decisive, as a kill and two service aces from Stutes, along with kills from Blackburn and Lily Wilson turned a 4-4 tie into an 8-4 Warrior advantage.  After the Bruins cut the deficit to three on two separate occasions, once at 11-8 and another at 13-10, the home team recaptured momentum and ultimately cruised from there, scoring 12 of the final 15 points of the set.  White contributed five service aces in the second set alone, while Stutes added two service aces and three kills.

Trailing two sets to none, the Bruins flipped the script in the third set, jumping out to a quick 6-2 lead and seemingly taking the momentum to their side of the net.  However, that momentum would be short lived, as the Warriors responded with a 15-2 run of their own to take a 17-8 lead.  Once again things started from behind the service line, as Stutes had three aces with Curtis and Nunez adding one apiece during the surge.

Although the Bruins did cut the deficit to 21-17 late in the set, a Brookings-Harbor service error opened the door for what was a 4-1 Warrior run to close out the match.  Three of those four points came via service aces from Winningham, while Curtis put an end to the evening with a kill to account for the final margin.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 6

The Del Norte Warrior varsity volleyball team remained unbeaten and alone atop the Big Five Conference standings with a 25-20, 25-15, 25-20 victory over the McKinleyville Panthers at Thunen Gymnasium.

Riding high following a three-set pasting of the Arcata Tigers at Arcata High School just two days ago, the Warriors came into Thursday’s match with the intention of building on that momentum.  However, the visiting Panthers, who had just come off a five-set match of their own at Eureka High two nights prior, had other ideas.  In fact, it wasn’t until the home team went on a 5-0 run at the midway point of the opening set to break what had been a 10-10 deadlock that the momentum began to creep to the Warriors side of the net.  McKenna Curtis had two kills during the surge, while Lili Nunez added a kill and Lauren Stutes chipped in a service ace.  The Warriors eventually extended the lead to 20-12 behind consecutive service aces from Nunez and two Panthers attack errors.  That was not the end of the set though, as the Panthers clawed back to within 24-20 before a Nunez kill put an end to the set.

Although the Warriors jumped out to a quick 4-1 lead to open the second set, once again the Panthers showed no signs of going away quietly.  Leading 13-11, the home team began to assert itself, as a Nunez service ace began what turned into a 12-4 run that ultimately closed out the second set.  Stutes drilled two kills during the run, while Curtis and Breann Winningham added a kill apiece.  A service ace from Bliss Blackburn capped off the surge, as the Warriors appeared to have seized control of the match.

That momentum carried over into the decisive third set, as the Warriors opened the stanza with a 10-3 run on the strength of two service aces from Stutes along with two kills apiece from Reece White and Curtis.  The margin quickly increased to 15-5 before a series of miscues and opportunistic offense from the Panthers enabled the visiting team to cut the deficit to 22-20 in the latter stages of the set.  That was as close as the Panthers would get though, as a McKinleyville service error followed by a kill from Curtis and service ace from White put an end to the evening.

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 18

After clinching an outright Big Five Conference championship by virtue of a four-set victory over the Eureka Loggers at Jay Willard Gymnasium Thursday evening and following that up with four victories in five matches at the Marshfield Tournament in Coos Bay Saturday, the Warrior varsity volleyball team ended a marathon week with a 25-22, 21-25, 25-15, 25-19 win over the Fortuna Huskies Tuesday evening on what was Senior Night at Thunen Gymnasium.

Del Norte’s Sheena Xiong and Lily Wilson were honored prior to the varsity match in recognition of being the two seniors on the 2022 squad, as the Warriors wrapped up an undefeated conference season with the victory over the Huskies and now await the North Coast Section Division IV playoffs which begin Wednesday.  The Warriors will learn their seed in the 16-team bracket and the location of their opening round match when the North Coast Section aligns the teams in various and assorted brackets Sunday.  Information can be found on the volleyball link to the North Coast Section website at http://www.cifncs.org and clicking on Brackets.

As for the regular season finale against the Huskies, it took some time before either side could establish any sort of momentum in the opening set.  The Warriors did eventually go on a mini 4-0 run to break a 15-15 deadlock, and held a 23-19 lead before the Huskies crept to within 23-22 in the late stages of the set.  The home team capitalized on a Huskies service error and attack error to close out the set.

The second stanza was a different story though, as it was the Huskies who took command early, keeping the Warrior defense on its heels and preventing the home team from getting into any semblance of an offensive rhythm.  The Huskies led 14-7 and 15-8 before a tip for kill from Lauren Stutes and another from Lili Nunez, followed by a free ball kill from Reece White and service ace from Stutes got the Warriors to within 15-12.  That momentum was short-lived though, as the Huskies extended their advantage back to 21-15 before the Warriors answered with a 6-1 run of their own behind two service aces from White a kill from Bliss Blackburn and a block for kill from Stutes to cut the deficit to 22-21.  That was as close as the set would get though, as the Huskies evened the match at a set apiece on a kill and Warrior error.

Following the brief stoppage between sets, the Warriors began to find themselves in the third, as a kill from McKenna Curtis started a 5-0 run that eventually turned into a 10-3 lead.  Curtis had five kills during the surge, while Stutes added two service aces.  Nunez contributed a tip for kill and service ace, and White added a block for a kill, as the Warriors seemingly took command.  However, the Huskies answered with an 11-6 run of their own to cut the margin to 16-14 before a kill and service ace  from Stutes and two kills from White sandwiched around two Huskies errors helped the home team stretch the advantage to 22-14.  White would put the exclamation mark on the set with a kill, as the Warriors took a two sets to one lead.

The decisive fourth set proved to be anything but early on, as the two sides split the first 12 points of the stanza before kills from White, Wilson and Stutes and Blackburn, along with a service ace from Xiong on consecutive sequences, enabled the home team to take a 12-7 lead and forced a Huskies timeout.  The lead eventually stretched to 16-8 and 17-9 before the Huskies mounted a 5-0 run to cut the deficit to 17-14.  The Huskies stayed within three at 22-19 before a service error from the visiting team, a kill from Blackburn and a block from Stutes closed out the evening, and the undefeated conference season, for the Warriors.

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 23

The Big Five Conference champion Del Norte Warrior varsity volleyball team received a No. 6 seed in the North Coast Section Division IV playoff bracket, and will play host to the No. 11 seed Healdsburg Greyhounds of the North Bay League on Wednesday, October 26 at Del Norte High School.  The match is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.  The winner of that match will then travel to Berkeley to take on the No. 3 seed St Mary’s Panthers on Saturday, October 29.

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 26

The Big Five Conference champion Del Norte varsity volleyball team got its 2022 North Coast Section Division IV playoff season off to a rousing start, as the No. 6 seed Warriors defeated the No. 11 seed Healdsburg Greyhounds 25-14, 23-25, 25-8, 25-21 at Thunen Gymnasium Wednesday evening.  With the victory, the Warriors now advance to the quarterfinal round where they will take on the No. 3 seed St Mary’s Panthers on Saturday in Albany.

Despite taking the court for just their first North Coast Section volleyball match, the home team got off to a blazing start, taking a 12-4 lead in the opening set and forcing an early Greyhounds timeout.  Following the stoppage though, the Greyhounds began to creep back into the set, cutting the deficit to 14-10 before a kill from Lauren Stutes started what turned into an 11-4 run to close out the stanza.  McKenna Curtis had three kills in the opening set to go along with two service aces that accounted for the final points of the frame.  Stutes added two kills and a service ace, while Lili Nunez served two aces and Breann Winningham chipped in a kill in the set.

The momentum seemed to carry over into the second set, as the home team jumped out to a quick 7-3 lead and appeared to be in cruise control.  However, the Greyhounds showed no signs of being willing to simply roll over, as the visiting team responded with a 13-6 run of its own to take a 16-14 lead, forcing two Warrior timeouts in the process.  The Warriors regrouped though, as a Stutes block for kill and a kill from Nunez sandwiched around two Greyhound errors gave the home team a 19-17 lead.  That advantage was short-lived though, as the Greyhounds put together a sequence of two kills, a service ace and a block, to take a 21-19 advantage.  After a kill and service ace from Curtis knotted the set at 22-22, the Greyhounds answered with two kills and a service ace to even the match at a set apiece.

That’s when things turned to the side of the home team in emphatic fashion, as the Warriors took an early 10-4 lead and were never challenged at any point for the rest of the frame.  The Warriors were clicking on all cylinders whether it be from behind the service line or at the net both offensively and defensively, while the Greyhounds had no answers.  Stutes drilled three kills during the onslaught, with Curtis adding two kills and a service ace.  Reece White served three aces, and both Winningham and Bliss Blackburn had two kills apiece, as the Warriors took a two sets to one advantage.

The fourth and final set was hotly contested throughout, as the two teams split the first 24 points of the set before the home team went on a 5-1 run propelled by two kills apiece from Curtis and Blackburn to take a 17-13 lead and appearing to have things under control.  After the Greyhounds cut the margin in half, a service error and defensive miscue from the visiting team on consecutive sequences opened the door for the Warriors to eventually put an end to the evening.  After kills from Nunez and Stutes gave the Warriors a 22-17 lead, the two teams exchanged service errors and the Greyhounds scored on a defensive block at the net, making the score 22-19 and leaving some semblance of doubt as to the potential outcome of the set.  Those doubts were put to rest in short order though, as consecutive kills from Curtis and an attack error from the Greyhounds ultimately produced the final points of the evening.

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