Murcko, Grant lead Howland past Hubbard

HOWLAND – The Howland Tigers volleyball team overcame a tough first set against Hubbard on Thursday night, but went on to win their next three sets in a row to take the match, 3-1.

Hubbard took the first set, 25-15, with Howland taking it 25-20, 25-21 and 25-20 in the last three sets.

“(Howland has) two really good players, (Cassie) Murcko and (Faith) Grant,” Hubbard coach Jeremy Porter said. “(Murcko and Grant) are two of the best players in the league (All-American Conference) and we couldn’t stop them tonight.”

The first set appeared as though Hubbard’s best players would dominate Howland, as the Eagles got off to a quick 6-0 start and never let the Tigers within four points at any point in the set.

When asked about what happened to her squad in the opening set, Howland coach Amanda Lingenfelter was at a loss for words.

“I wish I could tell you (what happened),” Lingenfelter said, smiling. “I really have no explanation for it, other than just not being ready to play from the get-go.”

However, the Tigers (11-7, 8-5) got back on track, as the second set saw them quickly take control, as they never trailed in the 25-20 win. Howland slowly pulled away in each of the last two sets, taking them 25-21 and 25-20, respectively.

Murcko had 22 kills, adding to the 1,000-plus that she’s already amassed in her career, while Grant had an equally-impressive night as she finished with 16 kills and six blocks.

The Eagles (12-5) had 17 kills from Addy Jarvis and Adria Powell, while Kristen Fahndrich added 19 digs. While Thursday night was a tough loss for Hubbard, Porter is still optimistic about his team’s chances to win a district title.

“We gotta go up to districts (and) give it our best shot. We got a chance up there and everyone starts 0-0 when we get up there,” he said. “If we play like we can play, we got a shot at it.”

The Tigers, coming off of a losing season a year ago, are glad to experience a winning culture in 2016. For Murcko, she feels that if the team keeps communicating and working well together, Howland will also be a factor in the postseason.

“Every game, I feel like we (Howland) improve,” Murcko said. “We have not lost in three (sets) yet this year. Going from last year, having a losing record to going into this year and having a winning record, it’s a whole different ball game (for us).”