By RON DEUTER
NORWAY - When it comes to Mid-Peninsula Conference volleyball, it's a given most teams will finish the year with an 0-2 mark against Iron Mountain.
Norway won't be one of those teams this season.
Chalking up their first victory over the Mountaineers in at least a decade, the Knights fought for a 3-1 (25-18, 26-28, 26-24, 25-20) win Tuesday night inside the Norway gymnasium.
"It's amazing," Knights coach Nicole Anderson said. "We've got ourselves so close so many times and to finally just put it all together, play hard and never give up is just awesome."
Norway, taking a big hit from graduation and returning just two seniors this fall, had to battle through two grueling middle sets to come away with the win.
"It's a big, big win for them," Anderson said. "We're starting fresh with a lot of young players. To pull something out like this with the team they have coming back, it's huge for us."
While Norway is young, the line-up does feature one of the league's best in senior Bailey Grayvold. She totaled 18 digs and seven kills in the match, but her contributions go beyond the numbers on the stat sheet.
"What she does as a leader out there, it doesn't matter if she has the best game," Anderson said. "She's just our leader and our rock. It's huge. She is always saying something positive, always getting them going and keeping them fired up."
Grayvold's dig total was one of four Knights in double figures. Lexi Negro's 20 led the team, with Heather Evosevich (13) and Jacey Bal (11) doing their part to frustrate the Iron Mountain hitters.
"Compliments to Norway," Mountaineers coach Jeanne Newberry said. "They dug a lot of balls up and we played right into No. 9's (Grayvold) hands. Wherever she was on the floor, we managed to put the ball right to her. She is a leader and she did a very good job."
Norway took a lead at 9-8 in the first set and never trailed again. A kill by Evosevich followed by pair of ace serves from Leah Mattson pushed a 19-17 advantage into a 23-17 cushion.
Set two was close the whole way. A even score at 14-14 was the first of eight ties down the stretch. Gianna Hill helped push the Mountaineers to the win with two points at the end, including a put down that busted a 26-26 stalemate.
A kill and ace by Negro had Norway up 21-14 in set three, but Iron Mountain clawed its way back to force a 22-22 tie. Sarah Girard and Maria Pirkola spearheaded the comeback with Kari Sanford and Katelynn Johnson also contributing key points. Pirkola led the Mountaineers with 12 kills in the match.
But Norway answered with a couple of big kills from Mattson, the set-winner falling softly in the middle of Iron Mountain defense.
"It was a matter of who was going to make the most unforced errors," Newberry said. "Every game that's what it usually boils down to. They played hard. We just made too many unforced errors."
Norway trailed 14-9 in the fourth set before a trio of kills from Mattson closed the gap, but not all the way. Iron Mountain still led at 19-16 after Johnson got one to drop in for a point.
A kill by Grayvold made it 19-17 Mountaineers, and after a hit out bounds by IM, Grayvold put another ball down to tie the set 19-19.
Negro followed with an ace, and Grayvold again found a hole to put Norway ahead for good at 21-20.
"This group of girls is so special," Anderson said. "They do not let anything get them down and they push through all the rough stops. Tonight the girls played great and with a lot of heart."
Knights, improving to 2-1 in league play, host Gladstone Thursday. Iron Mountain, now 1-1 in conference, hosts Gwinn on Thursday.
Mountaineers took the jayvee contest 21-25, 25-15, 25-21.
Jacey Bal - 11 digs; Lexi Negro - 3 aces, 1 block, 20 digs, 2 kills, 16 assists; Hannah Anderson - 2 digs; Leah Mattson - 2 aces, 10 kills; Heather Evosevich - 2 aces, 2 blocs, 13 digs, 9 kills, 2 assists; Melanie Kurth - 1 ace, 2 blocks, 5 digs, 3 kills, 1 assist; Bailey Grayvold - 2 aces, 18 digs, 7 kills, 2 assists; Brandi Strong - 1 ace, 1 block, 3 digs, 2 kills, 8 assists.
Abby Gerhard - 25 digs, 1 assist, 7 kills, 2 aces; Marti Pirkola - 1 assist; Katelynn Johnson - 7 digs, 21 assists, 5 kills, 2 aces; Sarah Girard - 18 digs, 1 kill, 2 aces; Gianna Hill - 10 digs, 5 kills, 2 blocks, 2 aces; Kari Sanford - 8 digs, 2 kills, 1 ace; Maria Pirkola - 11 digs, 2 assists, 12 kills, 1 block, 2 aces; Kristen Gendron - 1 dig.