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Sturgis-douglas Vb

Emily Gray-Smith, 25, of Sturgis tries to get the ball past Breah Mulvehill Thursday night in Box Elder.

Finding a spot on the bench for momentum has been a difficult proposition for the Sturgis Brown volleyball team in early season play as a combination of a tough opening schedule and up-and-down play contributed to a five-game losing streak coming into Thursday night’s matchup with the Douglas Patriots in Box Elder.

Not so on Thursday night as the Scoopers jumped up early and kept “old mo” in Sturgis black throughout enroute to a 25-20, 25-21, 25-23 straight-set victory over the Douglas.

“We faced a lot of tough opponents in the Huron tournament last week, good teams that always seem to show up in the state tournament,” Sturgis coach Traci Fransen said. “I think we came out of that experience, even with the losses, convinced we could play with those teams, and I think that is beginning to show.”

After a first set characterized by few outright winners and lots of errors and mishits on both sides of the net, a back-and-forth second set was perhaps the turning point of the match. Sturgis appeared on the way to an easy set win, moving out to a 14-8 advantage. However, Douglas rallied back and appeared on the verge of drawing even at a set apiece drawing to within a single point on three occasions down the stretch.

Not to be as in each instance, the Patriots with ball in hand and a chance to draw, shot themselves in the foot with a critical service error.

“That was a killer for us,” Douglas coach Jeff Nugent pointed out. “To come back like that and then to give them free points and lose the set not because of what they did, but rather what you didn’t do, was unfortunate. It wasn’t as if they were pounding up at any point, we just weren’t able to capitalize on our opportunities.”

Douglas didn’t surrender easily, however, playing perhaps the team’s best volleyball in the third set rallying back from a 22-16 deficit on the strength of three service aces by senior outside hitter Jeslyn Jindra — the team leader in kills with six.

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Sturgis Junior Emily Gray-Smith responded with a spike from her middle-hitter position to break the skein, and despite a couple of kills by Jindra to draw the Patriots within a single point at 24-23, another dreaded Douglas service error closed out the match.

Senior Brittany Delzer, who led the Scoopers in assists with 24, attributed the win to excellent front row play by juniors Sarah Janz (12 kills) and Grey-Smith (10).

"They make it easy for me,” Delzer said,” They are very flexible, and when I give them a good set, they put it away, and when it isn’t a good set, they know how to get around it and make a play out of it.”

Scooper libero Cassidy Jorensen explained how the tough start to the season may have been a necessary step toward Thursday’s win and a chance to turn the season around.

“It’s nice to win for sure,” Jorensen said. “We had some pretty tough teams in Huron, but I think we learned a lot from those teams and hopefully can use that knowledge to win our next few games.

Junior Sierra Kolve led the Patriots in kills assists with eight, and sophomore Sarah Vinson contributed nine digs to the Douglas effort.

Douglas (1-6)) travels to Hill City Tuesday (7 p.m.) while Sturgis (3-5) is on the road against Aberdeen Central on Saturday night before hosting Custer Tuesday (7 p.m.).

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