Eskomos fall at stateErrors haunt Esko in state 3-0 state quarterfinal volleyball loss to Stewartville.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Esko volleyball team traveled to the state tournament Wednesday.
And barely showed up Thursday.
Plagued by a plethora of uncharacteristic hitting, service and passing errors, the Eskomos got smacked by Stewartville 3-0 (25-12, 25-20, 25-18) in a Class AA state quarterfinal match Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.
To put it simply, the Eskomos just didn’t look like themselves. Not one bit.
“We just made too many mistakes and didn’t play all that well,” said Esko head coach Desiree DeLeon afterward. “We missed serves, hit balls out of bounds and didn’t play well defensively. We just weren’t there.”
Esko’s nightmare evening began from the get-go, as they allowed the undersized, fourth-ranked Tigers score 15 of the final 20 points in an opening game loss, where the Eskomos never really made things competitive. Again, errors were costly.
“We made a lot of our own mistakes,” continued DeLeon of her unranked Eskomos. “If we would’ve continued to play our game, we could’ve had a chance to be competitive and get a win.”
That never happened.
Although the Eskomos shook things off in the second game, tied at 11-11, Stewartville amassed a critical 12-3 run allowing them to coast to another win. DeLeon burned a pair of timeouts to ease the bleeding, but it never helped.
“We had spurts,” recalled DeLeon of their positive play in the second. “Stephanie (Bandelin) didn’t have much trouble hitting, but our other younger girls did. But that’s kind of expected. It’s their first state tournament.”
Again tied midway through game three, the Tigers took off on a 15-8 spurt to close a match where Esko never led by more than three points all evening. For that matter, they rarely had the momentum.
Stewartville (26-5) – who has made 20 state tournament appearances and won three championships – had the sure hand against the Eskomos from the opening serve. They had the lead basically all evening, letting the match last just over an hour. Yet, DeLeon explained her girls weren’t intimidated.
“To be honest, I was afraid of the nerves, that’s what you always worry about,” she said, “but I don’t think that was the problem. Sometimes it is, but I didn’t feel like it was about nerves.”
However, watching them play, something just wasn’t clicking.
Esko (28-2) – making just their second state tourney trip in school history, since their debut back in 2004 – played sloppy, inconsistent volleyball -- frankly, they were taken out of their normal style of play.
The tall, stellar-swinging Eskomos finished with a minuscule .107 hitting percentage, while they racked up an unfamiliar 23 attack errors and added eight service mistakes. All worse than the Tigers.
However, Stewartville’s on-net block was the clincher. Esko had seen nothing like it all season, as it literally put the Eskomos’ heavy-hitting attack at a standstill. For once, Esko was slowed down.
“They we’re a very good blocking team,” said DeLeon of the Tigers, who put up 14 blocks compared to Esko’s mere four. “We expected that. We adjusted well in spurts, but when you just play well in spurts, you can’t win a game.”
Esko's Bandelin led all players with 13 kills on the night, while senior setter Keely Deadrick had 26 set assists. Yet it wasn?t nearly enough to halt the experienced Tigers' game plan.
“They were a good team, I’m not taking anything against them,” said DeLeon, whose Eskomos lost just six sets all year, until Thursday when they got swept. “We’re just going to have to let it go. And I think they will. They don’t really have a choice. These girls want to be here and want to get a win. We didn’t get it today, but I think we’ll come ready to play tomorrow.”
Only their second loss of the fall, Esko will now move to Friday’s consolation round where they will clash with Visitation (25-6) – 3-0 losers to top-ranked Hutchinson Thursday – at 5 p.m. from the Xcel.
“We have to forget about today. It’s a new day tomorrow,” continued DeLeon. “I definitely don’t think that they’re going to want to lose two games and go home. I assume they’re going to be ready.”
That wasn’t the case Thursday. And Stewartville made them pay.