SANDPOINT — The Bulldogs and Lake City traded runs but as soon as the Timberwolves got Janae Rayborn and Brenna Hawkins involved in the offense, the Bulldogs fell behind in a 25-22, 22-25, 12-25, 26-28 home loss on Monday.
“I think that team right there is pretty even with us,” Sandpoint head coach Karen Alsager said. “On any given night, it could go either way.”
The two teams traded 25-22 sets before the Timberwolves broke the game open with a 25-12 third-set win. The combination of the Timberwolves finding Rayborn on offense and miscommunication in Sandpoint’s back line proved to be the difference down the stretch.
“She’s legit,” Alsager said of Rayborn. “We gave her too many opportunities to pass well.”
Points in the later sets ended in similar ways: Lake City would dig out the Bulldogs serve to the outside, where Rayborn used crafty timing and power to record kill after kill.
“They were being pretty repetitive,” Alsager said. “They were doing the same thing over and over again and we didn’t adjust to it quick enough. We were talking about it all night, but we didn’t actually do it.”
While the Bulldogs’ back line didn’t completely adjust to the Timberwolves’ game-plan, the team rallied enough in the fourth set to keep things interesting.
In the fourth set, Sandpoint jumped out to a 4-0 lead, then Lake City sophomore Hannah Stoddard’s aces gave the Timberwolves a 11-8 lead.
Yet the one constant for seemingly every Sandpoint response came when sophomore Lauren Breuner was serving. The Timberwolves setters couldn’t quite get a good read on Breuner’s serves, sending numerous passes towards Rayborn out of bounds.
“I’m glad [Breuner] is serving like this now, because as the season goes on, she’ll be used to the pressure,” Alsager said.
After 15-all, neither team led by more than two from that point onward. The Bulldogs nearly forced a fifth set at 24-22, but Lake City prevailed in extras to win 28-26.
Gabby Hicks (seven kills), senior Jenny Slaveck (five kills, seven digs, two blocks) and Katie Korn (seven kills) kept the Bulldogs in the game. Although junior Bella Phillips led the team with five blocks — the last of which gave the Bulldogs a momentary 22-20 lead in the final set, bringing the crowd to their feet — Alsager believes the Bulldogs’ setters and blockers have room to improve.
“We didn’t set our outside block in good enough to get more blocks,” Alsager said.
Sandpoint (6-6) completes its stretch of seven games in four days at Coeur d’Alene tonight. The game starts at 7 p.m.