Heart of Lady Cats push Madison to 5
Taylor Rennirt’s passing shot, lunging beyond the left sideline to bump the ball toward the field of play, took great effort from the Lady Cat. From inside the front zone, and her back to the court, the ball teetered along the top of the tape. Amazed as much as the crowd was, Madison had players around the net, they watched the ball fall graciously to the hardwood on its side of the court.
That was game-point in the fourth set. Celebration ensued from North Harrison’s players, knowing they would push Madison to a fifth game in the Class 3A Charlestown Sectional semi-final Saturday.
Despite rallying from two sets down, the fifth game was all Madison. Finding another gear, the Lady Cubs jumped out to a 12-1 lead and eventually took game five 15-3. Madison ended North Harrison’s season and upset bid 25-18, 25-22, 24-26, 24-26, 15-3.
‘For four games, we held our own,’ North Harrison coach Caitlyn Janes said. ‘The last game, I don’t know what we could have done different. We didn’t change anything. I believe in all six of the girls that were out there. It just didn’t go our way.’
Janes said looking back she could have matched middle-blocker/outside hitter Carlie Burson against the Madison 6-foot-2 duo of Emily Holland and Olivia Crozier on the front row.
‘But I didn’t see the point in changing when we had all the momentum,’ Janes said.
Dropping the first two games, North Harrison had its back against the wall in the later stages of the third game. Crozier put down a cross-court kill to put the Lady Cubs up 18-14, forcing Janes to call a time-out. Getting into her team vocally, Janes seemed to inspire the Lady Cats to go harder.
They responded by winning the next five points with kills from Brittany Rudolph and Burson. Burson also had an ace during the run that gave North Harrison a 19-18 lead.
A key dig by Jill Book in the back row set up an Abby Book kill to knot the game at 22.
North Harrison retook the lead when Rudolph placed an ace on the back-line. Madison, however, won the next two points, setting up match point.
Fending it off, Burson set down a thunderous kill from the left side. Burson kept the momentum going, putting down a winner from the middle. She and Abby Book combined for attacks on game point to give the Lady Cats a 26-24 win to stay alive.
‘I guess maybe I need to yell at them a little bit sooner,’ Janes said of the momentum shift. ‘They came out and really worked hard. Sometimes you have to remind them that, if they don’t give up, good things can happen. Things started to go our way and had all the momentum in the world the next two games.’
Burson would finish with a team-best 16 kills.
North Harrison led game four from the onset until a late Lady Cubs rally. Early on, North Harrison’s variety of offensive weapons ‘ Makenzie O’Connor, Abby Book, Burson, Rennirt and Rudolph ‘ provided attacking points. Rennirt put a ball down after the Lady Cats became more aggressive with the block to forge ahead 13-8.
Madison went on a 4-0 run to creep within one, but Burson recorded a kill then blocked Holland to shift the game back to the Lady Cats.
Rudolph later took advantage of a Madison overpass for an easy kill to set up game point at 24-20.
Madison came back, winning four straight points. Holland, who sat out the opening two sets, provided the spark. Tied at 24, North Harrison scored points on a lift call on Katie Hartman then Rennirt’s remarkable save.
‘I think plays like that come when you hustle and work hard,’ Janes said.
Jill Book had the initial dig before Rennirt came up with the blind shot that flirted with the tape.
‘When you can put that together with skills, good things can happen,’ Janes said. ‘Luck was on our side with that one.’
Despite the adrenaline from the Lady Cats’ hustle, Madison came out quickly in game five. Only an O’Connor kill broke up Madison taking an 11-1 lead. Hartman had three kills, while Holland and Crozier combined for three winning blocks during the spurt.
Trailing by 11 in a race to 12 was too much for North Harrison to overcome.
‘We struggle a lot when things fall apart, and it takes a lot more for us come back together,’ Janes said. ‘You don’t have that kind of time in a 15-point game.’
Kills for North Harrison came from all angles. Burson led the way with 16, while Abby Book (eight), Rudolph (eight), O’Connor (six) and Rennirt (five) put in their share.
‘I feel our different hitting options ‘ because we ran a 6-2 all year ‘ was a benefit of ours,’ Janes said.
Abby Book and Ally Robbeloth split setting duties.
‘We had three options all the time,’ Janes said. ‘It looked like it was an offense Madison wasn’t necessarily used to seeing.’
Going against an aggressive attacking offense of Madison, North Harrison had 12 blocks led by five solos from Burson.
Defensively, Jill Book was up to task as well, digging out 37 balls. Burson added 20 digs, while Rudolph had 16.
‘We went up to block better because, if you don’t against (Madison), they’ll put the ball down on you,’ Janes said of some of the adjustments between games two and three. ‘We backed off a little on our hitting because of their blockers. We reinforced that, if we swing and use their block, you’ll get some points. Don’t just tip. Mix it up.’
In game one, North Harrison held a 9-8 lead but fell behind due to a 7-1 Madison run. Game two saw the Lady Cubs race out to a 10-3 lead. North Harrison fought back, winning eight of the next nine points to tie the score at 11. Rennirt had an ace during the run. As a team, North Harrison had nine aces, led by Rudolph’s three.
Answering the tie score, Madison came out of a time-out to score the next five points. North Harrison would tie the game twice more (18- and 19-all) but couldn’t wrestle away the lead.
The Lady Cats, finishing with a 21-11 record, are set to graduate three: Jill Book, Brooklyn Sanders and Kendra Baumgarten.
Madison fell in the championship round, 25-21, 25-13, 25-17, to Silver Creek.