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Lady Cats hammer Perry Central

NH’s Rudolph spikes 14 kills
Lady Cats hammer Perry Central
Lady Cats hammer Perry Central
North Harrison’s Maddie Liebert punches a shot over Perry Central’s Bree Noland in the first game of the Lady Cats’ sweep. Photo by Wade Bell
By Wade Bell, Sports Writer

North Harrison volleyball coach Caitlyn Burson made some last-second changes in her lineup Thursday night before the Lady Cats’ matchup against visiting Perry Central, putting six players on the floor without any practice prior to the contest. The move turned out to be fruitful, and the Lady Cats swept up the Lady Commodores in three straight games.

“It’s something that we’ve never done before,” Burson said after their win. “We haven’t even practiced it. I really feel like they took advantage of it, and they played a lot better than what we have been. They played more aggressive. They were more aggressive on defense, offense and blocking, so I’m really happy with it, even though it wasn’t a huge blowout. To win in three games with a lineup we’ve not used before, it was a good night for us.”

Evidence of how well the new lineup worked came in the first game as the Lady Cats jumped to a 10-3 lead as they aggressively attacked the net. The Lady Commodores, however, were not ready to let the game get away so fast as they chopped at the lead and brought themselves back to within four, 12-8, following a kill by Morgan Judy.

Perry Central’s young team, with just two seniors, was unable to keep that footing and fell behind 21-12 as Baylee Rudolph delivered a pair of service aces and Chloe Jacobi blocked for a kill for the Lady Cats. North Harrison carried that to the end for a 25-13 win.

“When we get comfortable, that’s a problem for us,” Burson said. “If we built a lead, then we kind of sit back on our heels a little bit and we need to stay up more and stay that way the whole time.”

The Lady Commodores regrouped and took the early lead in game two. North Harrison punched back, and Rudolph killed to put the Lady Cats back in front, 5-4. Jadyn Smith later blocked twice and hammered the ball in for three straight kills to put the Lady Commodores in the lead. That lasted only briefly, however, as North Harrison later ran off eight straight points to lead by nine. Perry Central closed to within six at one point, but it wasn’t enough as the Lady Cats got the 25-16 win.

“We were back on our heels and also too close,” Burson said. “We were playing too short, so we also weren’t ready to move. We were getting jammed by a lot of balls, so, once we took a step back, and playing the ball with forward movement, moving our feet, we figured it out.”

Neither team played consistently well to start game three, but the Lady Commodores came out with more fight to them, keeping the scoring close and trading the lead seven times before taking a 14-12 edge following a kill by Meagan Mullis. The Lady Cats countered with two kills by Rudolph and a pair of service aces by Maddie Liebert.

The Lady Commodores answered with two big points, with Judy getting a save to tie the game at 16. Perry Central then hit into the net, and that’s all the Lady Cats needed. North Harrison went on a rage, winning the final nine points of the game, with Emma Schneider drilling three aces on serve and the Lady Commodores committing five errors in the Lady Cats’ 25-16 game and match win.

“We have to have little heart-to-hearts now and then,” Burson said. “We talked about playing all 25 points all the time. We talked about doing absolutely everything you can to make a play on a ball, not necessarily getting on the floor. We talked a lot about that after Borden, and tonight that timeout was a little bit of a reminder of that and what happens if we don’t. So, then, they came back out ready to play.”

Rudolph led the Lady Cats with 14 kills and five aces on serve. Schneider followed with four kills and five aces for the Lady Cats, who missed just three serves on the night and delivered a barrage of 13 service aces. North Harrison finished with 16 errors.

“I feel a lot better about the way things went tonight,” Burson said. “We were 3-4, but we weren’t playing to our potential. I think tonight we showed more of our potential than what we have.”

Smith led the Lady Commodores with 10 kills, and Judy added six. Perry Central also had a good serving night, missing just two. However, the Lady Commodores punched in just two service aces.

“Moving forward, we want to build on this,” Burson said. “We want to keep working on defense and hitting and start really coming together as a group. We’ve just been trying to get through and now become a solid force at the net and on defense.”