The Aitkin Gobblers took their time in the home opener Sept. 2, but it was worth it as the Gobblers battled and put away the Mille Lacs Raiders, 27-25, 18-25, 25-22, 25-23.
The Raiders challenged every shot by the Gobblers in the tight contest.
“The girls worked hard,” said coach Julie Asmus. “We made some adjustments from the Nevis match that worked for us.”
Set one was a wild one, back and forth as the Gobblers led 6-2 after a blast from Rae Nyberg and later had a 17-14 lead after a Nyberg tip down the line.
It was tied at 21-21, 23-23, 24-24 and finally at 25-25 before Aitkin got the final two points to put the set away.
The second set was nearly as close. The Raiders jumped out to a 12-6 lead before a Melana Ryan block made it 12-7. The Gobblers closed to within 14-12 but the Raiders were a little better in the second and evened the score at a set apiece.
Aitkin got out to a quick 5-0 lead in the third and had leads of 13-5 and 23-17 before Mille Lacs picked up the pace. The Raiders made it close at 24-22 but Brooke Zubke put an end to things and Aitkin was up two sets to one.
The fourth set started with a nice run by the Gobblers, who led 11-5 after a Nyberg baseline kill and, later in the set when Kayla Van Santen went down the middle with a blast, it was 16-11. The Raiders responded and led 21-20, but down the stretch, Aitkin put things to bed ending it with a Lauren Ratz ripper that the Raiders couldn’t handle.
“We still have to work on communication and serve receive,” Asmus said.
Nyberg led the Gobblers with 15 kills, while Ryan added five and Ratz four. Izzy Long and Maddie Hamilton split setting duties with 17 and 10 assists, respectively.
Libero Jessica Much led Aitkin with nine digs, while Haylee Van Santen added five and Anna Carlson and Long four apiece.
The Gobblers rebounded after a slow start but fell 3-0 to the Nevis Tigers on the road Aug. 31.
Nevis won set one 25-10, but Aitkin made it close, dropping set two 25-21 and the Tigers finished off the win with a 25-19 victory in set three.
Asmus thought her girls fought hard.
“We were very nervous in the first game but came back nicely,” the coach said. “We got into a rhythm the last two games and showed a lot of determination.”
Much had a good night with 21 digs and an ace serve while Nyberg had five kills followed by Kayla Van Santen who had three. Hamilton had six set assists and Nyberg and Brooke Zubke each had one block.
“Nevis is really strong on both sides of the net, but we found some good things and also some things to work on as the season moves on,” Asmus said.
The Gobblers are on the road at Pequot Lakes Thursday, Sept. 9.
Aitkin 27 22 25 25
Mille Lacs 25 25 18 23
Aitkin 10 21 19
Nevis 25 25 25