NORFOLK — Class D1 No. 8 Norfolk Lutheran has made a habit of starting slow in sets this season. But in the third set Thursday night against Pierce, the Eagles showed its capability when it played well for an entire set.
Norfolk Lutheran leaped to early leads of 5-2 and 8-3 in the third, and closed the match on a 13-3 run for a 25-19, 25-17, 25-13 sweep at the Clayton and Vivian Andrews Activities Center.
“When we went to the locker room for that little break, we said, 'We played well, but we started slow both sets, so let's do that differently in this third set.' They did respond,” Norfolk Lutheran coach Kathy Gebhardt said.
Pierce coach Brittany Weber credited Norfolk Lutheran defensive effort.
“They're really good at defense,” she said. “They're not going to just let the ball hit the floor. Even when we were swinging hard and doing well offensively, if we didn't get blocks, they were there to dig it up.”
After the third set was tied at 2, Norfolk Lutheran scored three-straight points, including a kill by Becca Gebhardt, and then a Pierce error contributed to the Eagles leaping to an 8-3 advantage. Pierce pulled to within 11-7 on a Katrina Meier service ace, and another by Marie Stone cut the gap to 12-10.
Then the Eagles flew out of reach.
The younger Gebhardt landed back-to-back ace serves as part of a 5-0 run. After Pierce scored back-to-back points to make it 19-13, a Kendra Rosberg kill and Morgan Holdorf ace serve sparked a game-ending 6-0 run.
Pierce jumped out to early leads in each of the first two sets, but could never hold the advantage.
To begin the night, the Bluejays scored five of the game's first six points, buoyed by four errors by the Eagles. Norfolk bounced back, starting with kills by sophomores Becca Gebhardt and Grace Bitney, to pull within 6-5. Pierce doubled its edge on a kill.
That's when the Eagles made their move, scoring seven-straight points to seize the momentum. The run was fueled by Holdorf, who had three kills and then a solo block to force a Pierce timeout with Norfolk Lutheran leading 12-7. Pierce would pull to within three twice before closing to 19-18 after three-straight errors by the Eagles. Another Holdorf kill prompted another Pierce timeout at 22-18, and Matty Boning ended the first with a spike.
The second set was more of the same until Norfolk Lutheran scored a 13-0 run that included three Holdorf service aces for a 19-8 lead after Pierce had led 8-6. The Eagles eventually finished off the set with a Boning kill and a Pierce hitting error.