A young Janesville Craig volleyball team had Middleton on the ropes Thursday night, but the Cougars could not deliver the knockout punch.

The visiting Cardinals rallied from a 2-1 deficit en route to a 3-2 Big Eight Conference victory. Middleton won 25-22, 23-25, 25-27, 25-14 and 15-9.

Craig’s inexperience was the difference, especially in the fourth and fifth games, when a rash of unforced errors sealed the Cougars’ fate.

“That was obviously the story, big time,” Craig coach Blake Budrow said of the numerous unforced errors his team committed. “We should’ve won Game 1, especially with a 7-0 lead, but sometimes that’s what happens with a young team.

“I certainly can’t fault the effort, and I told them that afterward. But when you’re this young, you’ve got to learn how to finish.”

The teams split the first two games before Craig seemed to take control of the match with a come-from-behind 27-25 win in Game 3. Abby Trapp’s kill gave Craig a 26-25 lead, and Lauren Glissendorf followed with an ace to give the Cougars the win. Glissendorf finished with a match-high eight service aces.

Middleton took over in the final two games. The Cardinals dominated Game 4, winning 25-14.

In the sudden-death fifth game, Middleton raced out to an early 8-3 lead and never looked back. The match ended on another Craig unforced error.

“I thought McKaylie Justman had a phenomenal night for us,” Budrow said of his sophomore who led the team with 16 kills.

“And as far as the team goes, we’re only going to get better. The biggest thing for us right now is that we have to do a better job of communicating. You’ve got to be expecting the ball and wanting the ball.”

Craig hosts Beloit Memorial on Tuesday night before traveling across the city to play Janesville Parker on Thursday.

MIDDLETON 3, CRAIG 2Middleton 25 23 25 25 15

Janesville Craig 22 25 27 14 9

Craig statistics (aces, kills, assists)—McKaylie Justman 5-16-0; Taylor Morgan 1-5-0; Kelly Heinzen 1-0-0; Abby Trapp 3-0-3; Lauren Glissendorf 8-1-21; Sophia Vitaioli 6-1-3; Abby Humphrey 0-0-1; Rachel Bonham 1-4-0; Taia Hodgkinson 0-1-0; Britten Bertagnoli 0-7-0