The North Platte High School volleyball team played its best when it mattered on Thursday by beating Aurora in five sets at the Dawg House.NPHS coach Laura Miller said the 26-28, 25-23, 13-25, 25-18, 15-9 victory should give her team some momentum heading into its weekend triangular against Gering and Alliance.
"This was a big win for us," said Miller. "It's a good confidence booster."
The first two sets went down to the wire. Aurora (6-3) won the first set and North Platte (2-3) got the second.
In the first two sets, NPHS couldn't get on track offensively because setters Allison Sawyer and Alex Neff didn't receive strong passes.
Miller said that passing has been one of the biggest question marks for the Lady Bulldogs so far this season.
"We're pretty good if we can pass," she said. "If we can get good passes, we can get a good set and we can usually get a good hit."
After winning the second set on a kill by Anna Allberry, the Lady Dawgs fell apart in the third set. Aurora took a 13-7 lead after Maggie Grosshans served for three straight points and North Platte couldn't regain their composure. The Huskies led by as much as 21-10 in the third.
"We came out really flat after winning the second set," Miller said. "Our passing broke down again."
But the Bulldogs put it behind them in the fourth set. They got a good start, going up 5-2. Aurora came back to tie at 13 and both teams battled for the next few points.
NPHS was still able to rebuild the lead to 18-15 after a tip by Neff that followed a kill by fellow freshman Olivia Nichelson. Then the Lady Bulldogs finished it off with senior Kylie Wroot coming on strong at the net to bring it to the deciding fifth set.
North Platte won the first two points of the fifth and then the Huskies won the next two plays to tie it up.
Both teams traded points until freshman Allison Kuenle made a kill to give the Dawgs a 7-6 lead. Then Kuenle, another freshman, made the next two kills to give NPHS a 9-6 lead.
The three points scored by Kuenle were followed up by two more with Jessy Hunt making a block and Jackie Paloucek coming up with a kill to make it 11-6.
The Lady Dawgs only allowed one more point before getting matchpoint at 14-7. Aurora fought them off a couple of times. But it was Kuenle who ended the game with another big kill, hitting one across the court from the right side that Aurora knocked out of play.
"They're fighters," said Miller. "They came together and stepped up when they needed to."
North Platte had a good balance in its attack with three players getting double digits in kills. Kuenle led the way with 15 kills. Wroot had 12 and Allberry followed with 10. Nicholson also had six and Paloucek had four coming off the bench.