A whirlwind season of ups and downs continued for Esko in Thursday’s home matchup with Duluth East. The Eskomos appeared poised to pull away from the visiting Greyhounds at numerous points of the match, only to have their momentum spoiled by unforced errors and lack of cohesion in a 3-1 (25-21, 13-25, 25-21, 25-21) loss.

Esko head coach Peter Stasiuk acknowledged that it’s been a bit of a roller coaster this season as the team has struggled to close out matches.

“It has been up and down. We started off pretty good. Through the middle of the season, we lost one of our big hitters, but we had her back tonight. Things just kind of fell apart a little bit. We’re just not clicking the way we should be,” Stasiuk said.

Stasiuk pointed to the extra effort put forth by the Greyhounds as one of the keys to their match win.

“I think they worked harder. I think they scrapped on defense,” Stasiuk said. “Our blockers were up there a lot, but the ball was going off the block and it made it really tough on us. “They just had a lot of scrappy plays that kept the ball in play and long enough for us to make an error.”

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Esko opened the match with a strong showing in the first set that went down to the wire, but ended in favor of the Greyhounds behind timely kills by junior Ayla Oltmanns. Oltmanns, junior Riley Panger and sophomore Ashlyn Ring all finished with double-digit kills in the match.

In the second set, the Eskomos showed flashes of dominance over their opponent, highlighted by a 10-point run with Kaitlin Lattner at the service line, and emphatic kills by Gabby Martenson, who made her return to the lineup.

“Her offense is huge. We were a little more aggressive (in the second set) and had them out of system a bit more, which helps our defense,” Stasiuk said.

The momentum was short-lived, however, as the Greyhounds battled back to take the next two sets behind a spectacular performance by sophomore setter Ola Okoro, who led the team with 32 set assists and 16 digs. Okoro’s diving dig late in the fourth set was a defining moment of the match, as it helped lift Duluth East to victory.

Duluth East head coach Susan Schmidt praised Okoro for her impressive showing.

“Her performance was amazing. That’s the best match of the season for her,” Schmidt said. “She always performs for us. She always gives us lots of assists, but tonight her defense was the key to this game.”

Esko will close out its regular season schedule on Tuesday when the team travels to Greenway to take on the Raiders. Duluth East will be back in action on Friday in the first round of the Lightning Invite in Apple Valley with a first-round matchup against Minneota.

Duluth East def. Esko 25-21, 13-25, 25-21, 25-21 — DE: Riley Panger 17K; Ayla Oltmanns 12K; Ashlyn Ring 11K; Ola Okoro 39SA; Okoro 16D. E: Gabby Martenson 14K; Kyra Johnson 10K; Kaitlin Lattner 36SA; Johnson 13D; Lizzie Hartlieb 13D.