Spartans head coach Lacey Ebersole wants her young Northland Prep volleyball team to get used to finishing games strong.
Without their starting setter, the Northland Prep dropped its second straight sweep, losing to visiting Page, 25-10, 25-22, 25-16, Friday night. The loss came as the Spartans were without starting setter and captain Ana Nicol.
"I definitely thought we were a bit more consistent, we came out slow with a different lineup -- we are missing one of our captains tonight," Ebersole said. "We had to adjust a bit and come second game, the girls picked it up, we were playing more consistent. We were picking up a lot of stuff. We just couldn't quite close it out."
The 3A Conference Sand Devils controlled most of the match against the 2A Spartans. While the Spartans lost the first and third sets by a sizable margin, Northland Prep had the second within reach near the end looking to knot the match up 1-all.
The second set was mostly back and forth, with the Sand Devils and Spartans trading points until the Spartans rattled off a 3-0 run to take a 21-17 lead -- using a kill on a quick touch by Maggie Auza, hitting off the strong block of Page's Emma Yazzie and a service ace by freshman Bella Moseng.
Page answered the run by outscoring Northland Prep 8-1 to close the set. The Sand Devils took advantage of two Northland Prep hitting errors down the stretch and got past the Spartans blockers with a touch by Torrance Begay.
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The second set ended on a scary moment when Northland Prep's Natalie Hansen collided with the referee stand while going for a errant pass. Hansen would get up with the help of her coach and the athletic trainer and was held out for the rest of the game.
"With the injury in the second match the girls got a little rattled. They were worried about her. She should be all right and we will move forward from here. ...We just got to work on finishing. I think we're getting our consistency down, we are finding rotations that work for us."
As a team, the Spartans had four aces and the Sand Devils had three. Both teams had a few service errors apiece. Begay had four kills for the Sand Devils, and Auza had seven kills and a handful of assists in the loss.
Ebersole said she was impressed by the work of senior Linnea Vagen, who took over setting duties for Nicol. Vagen did well to set up her teammates and keep the Spartans offense moving throughout the night.
The Spartans (1-4, 1-0 Central Region) will gets their first home region match of the season against Scottsdale Prep (3-1, 1-0 Central), Tuesday at 6 p.m.