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Briscoe salvages hair as Lady Cats fall to New Albany, 3-0

North Harrison volleyball coach Wes Briscoe was so confident going into the Lady Cats’ match against New Albany Aug. 13 that he was sure he was going to lose his hair, having told his team he would shave it off if they beat the Lady Bulldogs in the season opener. Briscoe, however, kept his hair as New Albany won in three on a disappointing night for the Lady Cats.
‘I was more upset about keeping my hair than I was losing my hair,’ Briscoe said after the match. ‘I wish I was walking out of here bald, because for 12 days of practice, we did everything right and carried none of that over onto the floor tonight.
‘My wife (Heather), when she found out, she said, ‘You’re going to find some other place to be until your hair grows back, because you all are going to step out on the court and beat New Albany.’ That’s how well we’ve been practicing.’
The Lady Cats played back and forth with New Albany in the early going of game one, but then the Lady Bulldogs made a big run for a 13-4 lead, with Sarah Mathews pounding in four aces during the run. New Albany kept that comfortable lead for the remainder of the game, winning 25-12.
‘I was kind of taken aback,’ Briscoe said. ‘I kept asking (Heather), ‘What team is that out there on the floor?’ That’s not the team we’ve seen two weeks in practice.’
The first quarter of game two was a trading session, with four quick ties, before the Lady Cats got a 6-4 edge. North Harrison then made three straight hitting errors, and New Albany got three service aces for a 10-7 lead. The Lady Bulldogs then had their own rash of mistakes to allow North Harrison to tie at 12.
Mathews and Alex Kraft gave New Albany a pair of kills in a 3-0 burst for a 15-12 edge. North Harrison stayed within three until two more errors gave New Albany a 21-16 lead. The Lady Bulldogs carried that on to a 25-18 win.
‘Game two was the better game, and we played a little more aggressive,’ Briscoe said. ‘We were still making some really silly errors, but I thought that would be a mental boost with them looking up and seeing the scoreboard and how close we were in game two and going into game three.’
Game three also started out close but only for a brief period. Mathews aced on serve for a 9-5 New Albany lead, forcing the Lady Cats to call timeout. From there, the Lady Bulldogs made a 6-1 run for a 15-6 lead. The Lady Cats scored only four more points from that point on, suffering a 25-10 loss.
‘There was just nothing emotionally that sparked anything for them,’ Briscoe said. ‘We couldn’t survive game three at all.’
‘These girls work as such a unit,’ he said. ‘If you come into our practice and watch the way we practice, it doesn’t look like they’re individuals walking around on the practice floor. It’s a solid team with people that care about each other and work together, who really bust their butts. That wasn’t on the floor tonight.’
Wynn Shroyer led North Harrison with eight kills, and Caitlyn Janes followed with three. The Lady Cats missed only four serves but found a single service ace. Hitting errors were the problem, as the Lady Cats made 34 in the three games.
‘We’ve got one senior on that team and a couple of juniors with some sophomores sprinkled in and a freshman,’ Briscoe said. ‘We’re pretty young, but I told the girls in the middle of the summer I didn’t care if we started six freshmen. It didn’t matter to me, because the number on the team that want it most are the ones that’s going to get it.’
Brandi Waller led New Albany with 13 kills. Mathews followed with five kills and five aces on serve, and Alex Kraft had four kills. The Lady Bulldogs missed nine serves but had 10 aces for the three games. New Albany also had far fewer errors, making just 15.
‘There’s certain things you can’t prepare for when you’re getting ready for a team,’ Briscoe said. ‘You can’t prepare for a middle hitter like Brandi Waller, who may be able to slam dunk a basketball. We have some athletes on our team and some girls that can really get off the floor, and this girl is hitting the ball two feet higher than our girls can jump. There’s nothing you can do to practice for that. She hits it hard and she hits it straight.’
North Harrison was missing junior middle hitter Angela Casabella, who had not been in the required practices to be eligible. Briscoe said the junior will add some extra size to the team.
‘We might be in a lot better shape when Angela Casabella shows up, because she might have been the only one to entertain the idea of stopping Brandi tonight,’ Briscoe said. ‘She’s a tall girl with long arms who can get off the floor a little bit. She’s not the strongest person, but all you’ve got to do in blocking is let it hit your arms. Once we get her back, we’ll have a lot more options of where we place people on the court.’
Briscoe said his team has the potential to reach a high bar.
‘We have to raise our game because we’ve got a lot of goals for this team that are achievable,’ he said. ‘I don’t think this team is the one you’re going to see the rest of the year.’