Lady Cats sweep Salem
The North Harrison volleyball team earned a Mid-Southern Conference win Thursday night over visiting Salem, but it wasn’t the kind of win one would want to enter in a beauty pageant. Still, it was an important win for coach Caitlyn Janes, who is in the final tuning stages before her team begins the post-season tournament.
‘That third set was ugly,’ Janes said after her team kept the Lady Lions from pushing the match to a fourth game. ‘The first two, I’ll take. They worked and they pushed all the way through. That last one was a little scary.’
‘I think it helps us, because, anytime you get a conference win, it boosts your confidence, especially going toward the end of the season,’ Janes said. ‘Those are your most important games, when you’re getting down to the nitty gritty.’
North Harrison and Salem swapped the lead five times during the first half of game one. The Lady Lions then had a rash of errors that allowed the Lady Cats to get some breathing room, and Brittany Rudolph added a kill to push the North Harrison lead to 20-13. Emily Roberts got one of those points back for Salem, but that was negated by a Lady Lions missed serve. From there, it was all North Harrison, which went on to win the game, 25-15.
Rudolph, Carlie Burson and Taylor Rennirt turned up the grill on the Lady Lions to begin the second game as North Harrison raced to a 9-3 advantage.
The Lady Cats saw a change in momentum as Salem came back to within three, 12-9, following a kill by Nicole Sullivan. At that point, the tide turned again, with the Lady Cats garnishing five straight points with Burson, Rennirt and Rudolph again at the helm. From there, North Harrison cruised to win, 25-16.
‘(Burson) was definitely on,’ Janes said. ‘That first game, she seemed to rotate around pretty quick, but we didn’t get the ball to her as much as I would have liked. We did that in the second game, and I think that’s why we pushed through the second game a little bit quicker.’
Somewhere between the end of game two and the beginning of game three, somebody unplugged the Lady Cats’ music box. The Lady Lions began with a 6-1 run and held the lead through half of the game.
North Harrison kept its composure, however, and fought back. Burson and Rennirt ripped back-to-back kills, closing the gap to three, 9-6. Courtney Moon answered with a Salem kill, but Burson countered again and Salem was called for an illegal hit, closing the gap to one, 11-10.
Salem erred twice, handing the lead to the Lady Cats, 13-12. North Harrison found some breathing room when Rudolph and Abby Robbeloth killed for a 17-13 Lady Cats lead. North Harrison’s lead eventually went to five following a Rennirt kill. Salem made one last run with a pair of kills, and North Harrison had a hitting error, which closed the gap to one, 24-23. Salem, however, hit out of bounds on the next side out, and the Lady Cats escaped 25-23.
‘I think they got ahead the first two games, then they thought they could just sit back and relax,’ Janes said. ‘But this is rally scoring, and you can’t sit back in rally scoring. Salem did a good job of taking advantage.’
‘We’ve not played three games in a week, in a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday,’ she said. ‘This is the first week we’ve done that, and we’ll continue to do that. I’m not sure if we were a little tired or sitting back on our heels instead of up on our toes. That’s something we talked about towards the end of that third game. You’ve got to be ready for anything, and you’ve got to be up on your toes and not falling forward.’
Burson led the Lady Cats with 15 kills, and Rennirt finished with nine. Rudolph and Mackenzie O’Connor had six kills each, and Abby Best tallied five. The Lady Cats missed four serves, delivered three aces and had 26 errors.
‘MacKenzie had a good night on the left side, and Abby Book had a good night on the right side swinging forward,’ Janes said. ‘Our hitting attempts were a little lopsided at first, but they ended up being scattered across everybody by the end. That’s really what we want.’
Roberts led Salem with nine kills, and Moon delivered six. The Lady Lions missed six serves and had three aces with 24 errors.
‘We let up a little bit in that third game, and that’s something I don’t want to do,’ Janes said. ‘I’ve preached to them over and over again, but we did finish, where we normally would have lost that game. We could have been up 24-23 and lost that game and lost 26-24. We finished it, so I’m happy we did that.’
‘Our mental game is what we really need to focus on and knowing where the smart plays are,’ she said, ‘and knowing who we need to get the ball to, at the finish of the game, who’s going to finish the game for them.’