Tough ending halts Lady Cats run
North Harrison was a point away Thursday from pressing No. 4 Brownstown Central to a game four in the Class 3A Salem Sectional in volleyball.
In the midst of playing their best game of the year, according to Lady Cats coach Wes Briscoe, the Lady Cats held a 24-19 lead in game three. Kills from Kourtney Settle, Hailey Brown and Abbi Shade allowed Brownstown Central to start a run to tie the match at 24.
Then, controversy ensued.
Briscoe approached the down referee with a sub following Brownstown Central winning the point to tie the match at 24. While yelling for the sub, the up official whistled play to begin. Brownstown Central’s Momoe Teruya served the ball that grazed a North Harrison player and fell to the floor for an ace.
Arguing to no avail, the Lady Braves converted the match point with a Brown kill to win in three, 25-11, 25-11, 26-24.
‘Unfortunately, the referee doesn’t hear the loudest person in Southern Indiana asking for a substitute,’ said Briscoe, who also pointed out the net wasn’t at regulation height. ‘The down official is standing next to my girl who wants to sub before he blows his whistle in, so he’s going to recognize my sub and tells me that he can’t overrule the head official, who waved the serve in, even though he was standing with my girl ready to sub. Not only did I have my girl out of position to play that second-to-last ball, the down official wasn’t even in position to do his job.’
The frustration of the final two points overshadowed a remarkable third game from the Lady Cats. Defensive players Jill Book, Maddie Janes and Amber Longest didn’t allow many balls to hit the floor, digging the kill attempts from the powerful Lady Braves.
‘They played awesome, tenacious defense,’ Briscoe said. ‘My libero (Longest) is the best in the state.’
Briscoe said he addressed his offense in between games two and three. With the defense passing well, they were only able to manage 11 points in each of the first two games.
In game three, they responded. Brooke Lamon had a kill followed by setter Rebekah Stephenson passing a winner to give North Harrison a 12-6 lead.
Following a three-point run from Brownstown Central, the Lady Cats offense added another spark. Part of a 7-3 run, Jill Book, Hayley Renneker, Kayla Elsea and Lamon landed winners to give North Harrison a 19-12 edge.
‘We told them they had to step it up,’ Briscoe said. ‘When our offense started playing better in game three, our defense elevated its play. Our defense was incredible. It was amazing. We had them on the ropes.’
When Brownstown Central cut North Harrison’s lead to 20-18 due to a Lady Cats net violation, Kendra Lambert put North Harrison back in front by three with a kill. Elsea caught fire at the net with a kill and consecutive block winners to reach game point at 24-19. From there, Brownstown Central closed the match with an eight-point run.
‘I told them all not to hang their heads; it was an excellent match,’ Briscoe said. ‘They need to be happy with the way they ended their season; 150 teams end in defeat and only four end up champions. We might have lost to a state champion tonight. It’s really hard to say.’
Games one and two were all Brownstown Central. At one point in game one, the Lady Braves went on a 13-1 run to take a commanding 17-4 lead. Brownstown Central broke game two into smaller runs but grouped them together to dominate.
‘We didn’t come out and play aggressively in games one and two,’ Briscoe said. ‘I guess you could call it accidentally trying to go with a rope-a-dope … It almost worked even though we weren’t doing that intentionally.’
Emily Giles led North Harrison with eight kills, while Elsea had six. The Lady Cats closed the season with a 17-13 record.
‘I was planning on having this being our best season,’ Briscoe said. ‘I haven’t seen effort like game three all year long. That was the effort I was figuring on coming in the first match of the season. My prediction of being 26-4 going was probably way true. With that experience and playing that way, who knows, a different match tonight definitely. They didn’t lay down. We stayed strong. We stayed aggressive, and that’s all we can ask them to do.’
North Harrison graduates five seniors: Kelsey Stickler, Giles, Longest, Renneker and Stephenson.