HAMILTON — Five-set volleyball matches are a bit of a marathon full of highs and lows for each team. Like any race, there's a winner — Stevensville topped hosting Hamilton Tuesday despite dropping the first set, 22-25, 26-24, 25-21, 16-25, 15-10.
But a test of endurance teaches a team about themselves, win or lose.
For Stevensville (3-3 overall, 2-2 in conference), it showed that the team's will can carry them even when they're down.
"We want it, we want it so bad, we always want to win," said Aliyah Anderson, who led Stevensville in kills with 11 and had the decisive death blow in each of the Yellowjackets three set wins. "We're restarting this season. We lost eight seniors (last year) and we have to want it more than these other teams do (to win)."
For the Broncs (2-5, 1-3), coach Jordan Carver saw a team that will stick together and battle back, even if it did come up short.
"We really have to work hard to finish the game and that's what we've been focusing on as a team all season. ...I'm proud of how they fought," Carver said. "That fourth game is tough to win especially when you're down."
The Broncs built a 16-9 lead in the fourth set on an Emma Ellis kill. The senior — one of just two on the young Hamilton squad — finished with a game-high 13 kills. Ellis added three aces also tied for the team lead with Layne Kearns and Katelyn Dickemore.
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"She's really stepped up this year and really stepped into that leadership role," Carver said of Ellis, who was also named homecoming queen a night earlier. "She really gets our team up when she's hitting well and serving well."
Stevensville withstood Hamilton's best shots, though. The Yellowjackets nearly went down 2 sets to 0 as the Broncs led 24-21 in Game 2, needing just one point to win. Stevensville got a side out with a Hamilton service error and the Yellowjackets immediately got an ace from Kelti Wandler, who closed out the second set serving.
Another dose of impressive serving from the Yellowjackets helped secure the decisive fifth set. Joey Oyler had three aces in Game 5 and Anderson pitched in one of her team-high four aces to go along with her game — and match — winning kill.
"No. 14 (Anderson) really kept them in the game tonight. She really made our defense work," Carver said of Stevensville. "They were working really hard and weren't letting us get that one tonight."
Anderson's finisher came after senior libero Cassi Kopsa landed an ace and served for the game's final two points. Hamilton tried to break the captain's focus with a timeout trailing 13-10.
But Kopsa kept hitting it over the net and she, Anderson and the Yellowjackets walked off winners.