Kearney Catholic scored the last five points of the fifth set on Tuesday to defeat North Platte High at the Dawg House.
The score was 25-11, 23-25, 17-25, 27-25, 15-13.
“This one’s gonna hurt for a while,” NPHS coach Clancy Hammond said. “Losing 15-13 in the fifth set, I’m gonna think about that one for a while. The girls worked really hard tonight. They really did.”
The fifth set began with North Platte (10-18) taking a 3-1 lead after McKenna Little made kills on two straight plays. But Kearney Catholic (14-9) rallied off five straight points with Kamryn David serving to take an 8-5 lead.
The Lady Bulldogs responded with a run of their own. With Brooklyn Douglas serving, they took the lead at 10-9 on a block by Peyton Neff. Then Chakera Hough followed with a kill on the left side to make it a two-point lead.
Both teams traded points and NPHS was a point away from matchpoint at 13-10 after another block by Neff.
But Jill Collins made a block to give the serve to Ella Bruggeman.
The Kearney Catholic libero served the match out. The Stars won the last five plays to take the match.
“We have worked hard all year on getting the lead and keeping the lead,” Hammond said. “That is something that’s gonna sting, having the lead and letting it get away from us. It’s just mental toughness. We’ve got to get over that.”
In the first set, North Platte couldn’t do anything right. Kearney Catholic scored the first four points of the match with Bruggeman serving and the Bulldogs couldn’t get back into it.
“We came out really flat,” Hammond said. “We finished the weekend (at the tournament in Scottsbluff) on a high (winning the last four matches) and we just came out not ready to play but we worked hard to bring some enthusiasm and energy for set two.”
But NPHS responded right away. They took a 6-2 lead after consecutive kills by Carly Purdy.
The Lady Dawgs continued to lead until the Stars challenged late. The score was tied at 23 after Ashley Keck made a kill on the left side. But on the next play, a ball hit by Collins on the right side touched the antenna and North Platte had setpoint. Purdy then made a kill on the left side to even the match up.
“They communicated really well,” Hammond said. “They talked to and cheered for each other. We worked really hard as a team in set two and three.”
The third set was tight for the first 10 points. But the Bulldogs took control, going up 15-12 after Little and Kenzie Polk combined for a block. The lead grew to as much as eight before NPHS put it away to move within a set of victory.
The fourth set was a battle all the way through. Kearney Catholic had setpoint at 24-22 when a ball by Little hit the back line and was ruled out. But Little got the kill on the next play and then a freeball by the Stars went out, tying at 24.
Little then made a kill in the middle to give North Platte matchpoint. But Sarah Clinch made a kill to tie again and then Clinch blocked Purdy to give Kearney Catholic the lead. Then Little hit the ball into the net to send the match to a deciding fifth set.
“It was a tough battle,” Hammond said. “Kearney Catholic is a really good team and we’re slumping around our growing pains a little bit.”
NPHS will next head to Lincoln on Saturday for a double dual with Lincoln Southeast (13-12) and Lincoln Northeast (2-24).