Scrappy Firebird team outlasts Central 3-2

Ray Maloney, Sports
Devils Lake’s Mackenzie Wade (3) goes high off the floor to reach and ball and tip it over the net during Tuesday’s match against Grand Forks Central at the Devils Lake Sports Center. Wade and the Firebirds held off the Knights to secure a 3-2 win.

A team with state tournament experience is still working on finding its identity.

That showed at times on Tuesday, but in the end Devils Lake had enough to hold off Grand Forks Central 3-2 at the Devils Lake Sports Center.

“We’re throwing people in positions they are not used to,” Devils Lake coach Julie Faul said after her team scored a 30-28, 22-25, 27-25, 21-25, 15-11 win over the visiting Knights.

That approach was necessitated like never before when standout Haley Prozinski, whose play last Thursday helped Devils Lake defeat Valley City, was injured early in the match and was forced to sit the rest of the night. Her return to the lineup is uncertain.

“We adapted as a family (Tuesday),” Faul said. “We could have rolled over ... but we didn’t. (Prozinski) is a big part of our lineup, but we pulled together in a big way and got done what we needed to get done.”

Devils Lake played catch up most of the night. The Firebirds trailed early in each of the first four sets, including the fourth set, that turned out to be the turning point.

Trailing 2-1 in the match and 16-20 in the set, the Firebirds battled back. A mammoth block by Taylor Wade knotted the set at 20-20 and the stage was set for another dramatic finish.

The Knights built two-point leads on two occasions down the stretch, but were unable to secure the win.

The Knights forged the final tie of the set at 25-25 when a cross-court return fell just inside the end line to extend the match.

Momentarily.

A Mackenzie Wade block went off a pair of Central defenders and fell out of bounds to put the Firebirds in front 26-25 and another big block by Taylor Wade gave the set to Devils Lake and force a deciding fifth set.

“We had our chances,” Central coach Missy Miedema said, “but give Devils Lake credit ... they played scrappy defense.”

Mackenzie Wade led the Firebirds with 16 kills on the night, while Taylor Wade, who paced the team with eight blocks, added 15 kills of her own. Steph Mertens added eight kills.

Autumn Wang led the way for Devils Lake with 38 assists on the night. The Firebirds also found some success at the service line and tallied 11 aces in the match.

Mertens and Rachael Tollefson each served up four aces, while Mackenzie Wade added two and Wang chipped in with one.

GF Central    28   25   25   25   11

Devils Lake   30   22   27   21   15

Grand Forks Central: Kills –Caitlin Farroh 13, Courtney Hammer 9, Michaela Johnson 5. Blocks – Hammer 2, Katelyn Olson 1. Assists – Gena Grant 21, Erin Cox 16. Aces – Kaylyn Selle 4, Taylor Hammer 3, Farroh 2. Digs – Selle 42.

Devils Lake: Kills – Mackenzie Wade 16, Taylor Wade 15, Steph Mertens 8. Blocks – T. Wade 8. Assists – Autumn Wang 38. Aces – Mertens 4, Racheal Tollefson 4, M. Wade 2, Wang 1.