The Devils Lake Firebirds come from behind to set a fifth set, but eventually lose to Valley City 25-12, 16-25, 14-25, 28-26, 8-15.

There was a moment during the fourth set of Devils Lake’s volleyball match against Valley City when the match was stopped to recognize Abby Johnson’s 1,000th career dig. That was the only thing that slowed the Firebirds down during that pivotal stretch.

The Firebirds rallied from an eight point deficit to force a fifth set, only to fall short of completing the comeback, losing to the Hi-Liners 3-2 Tuesday night from the Sports Center. The match completed the Eastern Dakota Conference regular season for both schools.

“To play our volleyball,” said Firebirds head coach Carla Freschette about what she told her team as the match was on the verge of being done in four. “Play our game and not anyone else’s.”

The Hi-Liners (20-9, 13-7), who just came off a 25-14 third set win, built a six point lead after an ace by Grace Scherr to make the score 11-5. Devils Lake hit the Hi-Liners with the first surge, trimming the lead down to two at 12-10. Valley City responded, going on a 6-3 run that forced Freschette to call a timeout. The Hi-Liners scored four of the next five points and led 22-14.

Then it happened.

Valley City’s advantage begin shrinking. The score went from 22-14 down to 22-18 after a Kyleigh Toso kill. It was after that point when play was stopped for Johnson. Two points later, play was stopped again, this time due to a Valley City timeout. The Firebirds now trailed 22-20.

At 24-21, a Macy Olstad’s attack error, followed by a Toso kill and the Firebirds were within one. Devils Lake would get its first lead of the set after a Chiara Olson kill made the score 25-24. The set was tied two more times before the Firebirds finished the comeback, winning the fourth set 28-26 and tying the match at 2-all.

In the fifth set, the Firebirds (19-12, 14-6) held a 3-2 lead and tied the set at 5 but Valley City would pull away, winning the set 15-8 and ending the match.

“We just rode the roller coaster. We like to do that sometimes and it showed today,” Freschette said. “But we’ll definitely show up and make a change for next Tuesday.”

Valley City won the first set 25-12 and the Firebirds won the second 25-16.

Toso finished with 12 kills and four blocks, Olson had 14 kills and 16 digs, Mattea Vetsch had six kills and 17 digs and Taylor Windjue has two kills, five digs and 46 assists to lead the Firebirds who, despite the loss, finished fourth in the final EDC standings. It is the highest that Devils Lake has finished in the conference since the 2000 team that finished fifth.

The Firebirds were also led by Averi Ziegler had seven kills, five digs and two blocks and Johnson had 27 digs, completing the regular season with 1,005.

“These girls are gamers and that’s how they’re going to play, especially when it comes to tournament time so I expect to see more energy and I expect to see a lot more get up and go on the floor,” said Freschette.

The Firebirds and the Hi-Liners will have the rubber match in the 4 vs. 5 matchup of the EDC tournament quarterfinals Tuesday, Nov. 6 from the Sports Center. First serve is scheduled for 2 p.m.

After dropping the first set, the Firebirds jumped out to a 6-0 lead. Valley City’s first point in the set came off of a Windjue service error. The Firebirds built the lead to seven at 11-4 and then again at 20-14 before closing out the Hi-Liners.

In the third set, the two teams exchanged leads in the early stages, after an Olson kill tied the set at 4 and Devils Lake gained the lead with the next point. However, a Taryn Dieterle kill put the Hi-Liners up two, a lead they never relinquished.