VOLLEYBALL: Eureka rallies in 2nd set, sweeps Vals

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  • Bigfork libero Jaclyn Saunders digs out a serve against Eureka at Bigfork on Saturday. (Aaric Bryan/Daily Inter Lake)

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    Eureka outside hitter Kassi Peterson and Bigfork setter Aubrey Halverson both go for a ball at the net at Bigfork on Saturday. (Aaric Bryan/Daily Inter Lake)

  • Bigfork libero Jaclyn Saunders digs out a serve against Eureka at Bigfork on Saturday. (Aaric Bryan/Daily Inter Lake)

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    Eureka outside hitter Kassi Peterson and Bigfork setter Aubrey Halverson both go for a ball at the net at Bigfork on Saturday. (Aaric Bryan/Daily Inter Lake)

BIGFORK — For the first time in two meetings between the teams this year, Eureka seemed destined to drop a set to Bigfork.

The Lions found themselves on the ropes in the second set, trailing 19-10 after five consecutive Bigfork points.

But Eureka refused to quit.

The Lions took 10 of the next 11 points to tie the score at 20, then won five of the final six to capture the set.

Eureka went on to win the third set and sweep the Valkyries for the second time this season — 25-21, 25-22, 25-23.

“Volleyball is a game of momentum, and once you lose that momentum, even if you’re ahead it doesn’t really feel like it,” Bigfork head coach Schuyler Baird said. “We got on that slippery slope and just couldn’t hold on.

“Eureka is just mentally tough. Even when they were down ... it didn’t look like they were down. They just kept fighting. We can take a little bit of that and learn from it. We’d like to be that tough when we’re down.”

Bigfork (6-4 overall, 2-2 District 7B) created its separation with a 6-1 run earlier in the second set, and Eureka (8-2) head coach Charli Chapman called timeout during the run to regroup.

Chapman had a simple, calming message for her team in the huddle.

“Just get back on track, get back in sync,” Chapman said. “Shake off what happened before. We work really hard on not focusing on mistakes.

“The credit goes to the girls. They have such good team chemistry. They trust each other’s abilities and skill sets. They’ve played together for so long, and they buy into the system we’re running. You can just see it out there. They make a mistake and they just roll on to the next (point). The team chemistry and the trust that they have is paramount to our success.”

Kassi Peterson tallied her match-high 15th kill to close out the victory in the third set for the Lions.

As a team, Eureka recorded 43 kills to Bigfork’s 20 and had 41 assists, all of which were provided by Liz Pacella, to the hosts’ 15.

The road win kept Eureka undefeated in district play with a 4-0 record with two matchups left on the schedule.

“This is one of the biggest matches of the season,” Chapman said. “In our opinion, this was kind of like the conference championship. Our goal was to win and win big, and I think we met our goal.”

But Baird was quick to point out that, although the Valkyries are now likely to fall short of the conference title, all of their goals — including a state tournament appearance — are still in front of them.

“It doesn’t matter until divisionals,” Baird said. “We want to place first or second in divisionals so we can get to state, and that’s what matters.”

Eureka returns to action at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday with a matchup at Class A Libby, which handed the Lions one of their two losses in four sets earlier this season. Bigfork hosts Troy at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

Eureka def. Bigfork 25-21, 25-22, 25-23

Kills — Eureka 43 (Kassi Peterson 15), Bigfork 20 (Abby Ellison 10). Blocks — Eureka 2 (Bailey Bishop 1, Maggie Graves 1), Bigfork 5 (Jaime Berg 3). Digs — Eureka 57 (Rylee Morgan 19), Bigfork 44 (Brooke Fraley 12). Assists — Eureka 41 (Liz Pacella 40), Bigfork 15 (Aubrey Halverson 15). Aces — Eureka 6 (Morgan 2), Bigfork 7 (Lydia Shelley 5).

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