Two volleyball teams in a late-season search for identity met head-on in Barnum last Thursday night. Cromwell-Wright defeated Barnum in five sets — but there was reason to smile for both coaches.
The match scores showed how competitive it was — the Cardinals (7-9) won 23-25, 25-14, 24-26, 25-29, 15-7. For Cromwell-Wright, the pick-me-up was important.
"We were on a losing streak," CW coach Amy Granholm said. "We struggled on working together as a team and we weren't trusting each other. A match like this was critical for us."
Shaily Hakamaki had 10 kills, 11 digs and six blocks for Cromwell-Wright, which also got 10 digs from Taya Hakamaki.
Emily Miletich had 14 kills for Barnum (8-11) while Lea Peterson had 18 set assists. Meghan Liimatainen also had 16 set assists for the Bombers.
"We were up and down," Barnum coach Corina Newman said. "I feel we did not play up to our potential in those games. It was a fun match between the schools, with lots of long volleys and, to be honest, in the end we didn't step up to the plate."
Even though the Bombers lost, Newman is happy with the team ethic her players are developing.
"That's been a surprise," she said. "It was all individual play before, but we're coming together as a team. Players aren't sticking their arms in to hit a ball when it's headed toward a teammate. They are learning something every week and starting new. They just need to keep their drive to improve."
Granholm said much the same thing.
"[The players] had a low, but we're back," she said. Cromwell-Wright had lost six of its prior seven matches before defeating the Bombers. "We had some injuries, but everyone has injuries. But we've seen better teamwork and trust, and we needed that."
"They're scrappy," Newman said of the Cardinals, and Granholm agreed.
"Most teams say that about us," she said. "We try to touch every ball and the players don't give up. We've come back but we've lost a lot of sets by two points."
Newman wouldn't mind another shot at the Cardinals in the upcoming playoffs.
"I think if we met up with them again it might be different, no disrespect to them (Cromwell-Wright)," she said. "Since the beginning of the season, we've learned every time we play and we build together as a team. I only hope for the next two weeks that we are ready for whoever we match up with in playoffs and go 100 percent."
"The first playoff game, whoever it's against, will be one we need to win," Granholm said. "But after that, it all depends on who shows up and how determined we are to win. Who wants it more? That's when things get tight."
"These players can get as far as they want to get (in the playoffs)," Newman said. "The sky is the limit. There are some really good teams in the section, but we've got good hitters and athletes, too. It's all about who brings it together at the end of the season."