Gallery: Tigers’ rally falls short in home opener

Published 11:19 pm Thursday, September 4, 2014

Camryn Keyeski of Albert Lea digs the ball Thursday in the Tigers' home opener against Mankato West. Mankato West won 3-2. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Camryn Keyeski of Albert Lea digs the ball Thursday in the Tigers’ home opener against Mankato East. Mankato East won 3-2. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Facing elimination after Game 2, the Albert Lea volleyball team forged a comeback but fell short in its home opener.

The Tigers lost 3-2 Thursday against Mankato East.

Albert Lea led 21-17 in Game 1, but the Cougars closed the game on a 9-3 run to win 26-24. Mankato East carried the momentum into Game 2 by jumping out to a 14-3 lead that ended with a 25-10 Cougars win and a 2-0 lead in the match.

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However, the Tigers didn’t quit. Albert Lea reeled off two straight wins to force Game 5.

“I was really proud of my team for the way they fought through that because it can be a hard thing to do when you drop a set like we did in Game 2,” said Albert Lea coach Lisa Deyak. “When we came into Game 3, we got it all squared away. They were fighting, and they were playing with determination and confidence. That was the difference.”

The Tigers scored the first four points of Game 3, and it was close throughout. The score was tied at 10, 18 and 22. The Tigers broke the tie (23-22) on a pass from Julia Deyak to middle hitter Kassi Hardies, who contributed one of her five kills.

“That was awesome,” coach Deyak said. “We’ve been working hard to get there. Sometimes it takes the entire season to get that kind of timing down (between the setter and middle hitter), but we’ve been making progress there.”

With an ace serve by Hardies and a block by Deyak, Albert Lea finished off the Cougars to win 25-22 in Game 3.

Game 4 was similar to Game 1. The score was 26-24, but the roles were reversed. In Game 1, Albert Lea led throughout but lost because of a late run by Mankato East. In Game 4, Mankato East led throughout, but lost because of a late run by Albert Lea.

The Tigers took a 3-1 lead in Game 5, but the Cougars responded with six unanswered points. Mankato East built a 13-8 lead, and a call by the official gave the Cougars a 14-8 lead. However, after coach Deyak pleaded her case, the call was reversed and a point was taken from Mankato East. Nonetheless, Mankato East held on to win 15-9.

Deyak led Albert Lea with 40 assists. She also had eight digs and five ace serves. Camryn Keyeski posted a team-high 28 digs to go with seven kills. Allison Grandstrand had 11 kills and three ace serves, and Hope Landsman added 14 digs and two kills.

Next, Albert Lea (1-4 overall, 0-1 Big Nine Conference) will play at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday at Mankato West. The Scarlets (2-1 overall, 2-0 Big Nine Conference) are coming off a 3-0 home win against Austin.

Statistics are in the Scoreboard: Sept. 4 post.