Chloe McDermott was so locked in during a set she and her teammates had to win that she was taken aback by what she saw.
Yankton 23, Huron 15.
The Gazelles were, at the time, about ready to force a deciding fifth set in a match they once trailed two sets to one.
“I looked up at the scoreboard and we were up eight, and I seriously didn’t even realize it,” said McDermott, the senior outside hitter for Yankton.
“I was in the zone; not really thinking about the score.”
McDermott shortly thereafter polished off the set four victory for the Gazelles and then helped her teammates win the fifth set to cap off a wild Eastern South Dakota Conference (ESD) match on their home floor.
Yankton rallied for a 22-25, 25-14, 20-25, 25-15, 15-10 victory over Huron for its first conference victory of the season — and one that ended a three-match losing streak.
Any time there’s a five-set thriller, there are bound to be plenty of high-pressure moments, and the fact that the Gazelles were able to rise to the occasion in more than a handful of them spoke volumes, according to head coach Chelsea Law.
“You can see improvements in the mental game in those pressure moments,” she said.
“We remind them quite a bit about, ‘We’ve been in those situations before’ and, ‘What did I do?”
That’s partly why the Gazelles (4-8) were so excited about their victory, the coach added.
“We’ve kept saying, we’re there, we’re there,” head coach Chelsea Law. “We had the pieces but just had to put them all together.
“We wanted to show up for every single point.”
Huron (4-4) controlled the early stages of the opening set — at one point lead 20-13 — but then had to hang on for a 25-22 victory. Yankton then took its turn controlling the pace in set two, and the visiting Tigers then held off the Gazelles in set three.
That set the stage for a die-or-die fourth set for Yankton.
“They’re all so competitive,” Law said. “I even said to them, ‘Don’t think, just play,’ and then played together as a team.”
Following the set-four victory, the Gazelles then jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the fifth set. Huron was able to claw back a bit, but Yankton responded to capture the win.
And what did the Gazelles learn about themselves in the victory?
“We’ve learned that we sometimes struggle coming out, but this teaches us that we can come back and win,” McDermott said.
McDermott finished with 14 kills, two blocks and 17 digs, while fellow senior Jordynn Salvatori notched three ace serves, 15 kills and 14 digs. Sophomore setter Camille McDermott tallied two kills, three blocks, 34 assists and six digs.
The collective result was an especially sweet win, according to Chloe McDermott.
“In my three years, we’ve had a tough run against Huron, so it really feels good to get them like this,” she said.
Yankton now has a week off until a road match next Tuesday at Sioux Falls Lincoln.
In sub-varsity action Tuesday night between Yankton and Huron, the Tigers won the JV match (25-11, 21-25, 15-12) and the sophomore match (26-24, 25-18). The Gazelles then swept both freshman matches: ‘A’ (25-13, 22-25, 15-13) and ‘B’ (26-24, 25-17).
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