Lady Cats sweep Lady Rebels
Wade Bell, Sports Writer
The coronavirus had been a hindrance on both the North Harrison Lady Cats and South Central Lady Rebels volleyball teams before they went head to head last Tuesday night near Elizabeth. North Harrison had just gotten its full team roster back on the floor, while South Central was at a bare minimum of seven players after the team was shut down for two weeks.
The Lady Cats prevailed with South Central looking forward to getting its entire team back and healthy.
“We had all of the people on our roster, and everybody came in and did their jobs,” said North Harrison coach Caitlyn Burson. “We took control and momentum in moments when we needed and played a lot more smoothly and less all over the place.”
“For our first match after being quarantined for two weeks, and we’ve only had four practices, we didn’t do too bad,” said South Central coach Chelsea Thomas. “Obviously, we have holes in our defense. We have things that we need to fix but, hopefully, over the next couple of weeks, as we get more practices in and we get back on the floor, we can fix those things. We’ll be more of a force to be reckoned with rather than confused and nervous. … ”
The Lady Cats looked to make up some lost ground and came out slugging, taking a 10-3 lead in game one. South Central managed only a point here and a point there as the North Harrison advantage ballooned to 21-7. The Lady Rebels managed a short spurt late in the game, but the Lady Cats went on to win 25-14.
“Our blocking improved a lot and, when our blocking is better, our defense is better,” Burson said. “We’ve worked on that a lot in the last couple of weeks. The block is the first line of defense and, if you don’t do your job, it makes it a lot harder for the back row to do theirs. We’ve pushed our blockers to focus on that. A lot of times we get too worried about the hits that’s coming next, but it doesn’t matter if we don’t play defense first.”
South Central regrouped and kept game two tighter, down three, 9-6, after North Harrison hit out of bounds on serve. Sydney Smith then smashed a kill for the Lady Cats that ignited a 6-0 run to lead 15-6. The Lady Rebels got one of those back when the Lady Cats hit short then called timeout.
After the break, the game went to the North Harrison Lady Cats, who went on a 9-1 rage. The teams traded points, but the Lady Cats got the 25-8 win.
“We only had a week and a half of practice before we got quarantined and then several of the girls came down with COVID, so they were out for two weeks and we were all quarantined at that point,” Thomas said. “So, we didn’t have practice. We got to come back to practice last week, last Wednesday, and we didn’t have any rotations after that or before quarantine, so we were working on rotations.”
North Harrison ran out to a 7-2 lead to start game two, forcing Thomas to call a timeout. The Lady Rebels dug deep and pulled themselves back into the game with some work at the net and some service aces to close the gap back to one, 9-8. Moments later, Ellie Wibbels drilled an ace to tie the game at 10. Andrea Ness and Kendyl Lasley followed with Lady Cats’ kills. North Harrison erred on the next side-out but rebounded from that to put away the game and match with 13 straight points, Kyra Case getting the final kill for the win.
“We made a few changes trying to rotate people through some different spots to see what they could do, and they did fine,” said Burson. “It just didn’t click as well as what it did earlier. Maybe we got a little too comfortable and had to reset and come back out and really push.”
“It was shaking off rust and playing positions they weren’t used to playing,” Thomas said of her team. “One of my setters has never been a setter before. As of five days ago, she became a setter. She’s got a beautiful touch on the ball and she’s a great athlete, but it was just that transition of, ‘I have to go get the second ball,’ ‘I have to pass and move to the ball.’ It was things like that. It was kind of transition for her. So, we’re working with what we’ve got at the moment.”
Sydney Smith led the Lady Cats with six kills and three service aces, and Gracie Fouts had six kills and two aces. Case had five kills and three aces, and Lasley had four kills. Molly Coomer and Shelby Smith had big serving nights with five and four aces, respectively. North Harrison missed five serves for the match but had a whipping 18 service aces. The Lady Cats had 18 errors.
“Sydney has been hitting really well for us,” said the North Harrison coach. “That was an adjustment that we made, moving Sydney and Bri (Fawver) outside, switching them with our right side. It just seemed to come together and help our blocking and our hitting in terms of putting the ball away more often than we were with them on the right side. Shelby really had some nice aces for us to really give us a strong run to the end. She can definitely provide us a lot of good serving from the back row.”
Wibbels led the Lady Rebels with four kills. South Central missed seven serves and had two aces on serve. The Lady Rebels finished with 24 errors on the night.
“Megan is a junior this year,” Thomas said. “Her first year on varsity was last year, and she has just blossomed in that front row. She’s tall and she’s consistently becoming more aggressive in that front row. She really does fire the girls up when she gets those blocks or those tips and attacks in that front row. Then, she blows one out and hits the wall and you can’t help but giggle at her because she is a character and a half. She does a lot for our floor. She does a lot to help keep our spirits up, and then she’s a force to be reckoned with on the front row. She does really well for us.”
Burson said she is feeling better having her entire team back, while Thomas still has to get her roster back to full capacity.
“This is the first time since New Albany (on Aug. 16) that we’ve had all 15 people and just being able to know that we have options for every position and try people in different spots and see what happens,” said the North Harrison coach. “I think it’s healthy for them and healthy for us as a team because it just breeds competition and allows them to really work for it in practice and here.”
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to get our girls’ practices in and we’ll have our full team,” said Thomas. “I’ve got girls that have told me, ‘This is not where I normally play’ or ‘This is my weak spot’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t have anybody to put in for you. You’re going to play it tonight. You’re going to do your best and that’s all you can give me.’ So, they were extremely nervous.”
“I’ve got some girls that are really bummed because they don’t get to play right now, and then I’ve got girls that are really bummed because we need our team, we need our full team,” she said. “For our first game, it was rough but I think we’ll see better things in the next couple of weeks.”