Photo by James Parrish
North Platte's Madalynn Doughty launches into her jump-serve against Kearney.
Inconsistency plagued North Platte on Tuesday night but the Lady Dawgs made the plays when it mattered the most to beat Kearney at the Dawg House.
"It's been a while since we beat Kearney," said NPHS coach Laura Miller on her team's 25-19, 25-18, 18-25, 25-23 victory. "It was not our best game but it's still a win. We didn't play our best volleyball."
Kearney (2-10) came out and scored the first three points of the match with North Platte committing hitting errors on all three plays.
But the Bulldogs (7-7) came back to tie at four and both teams battled until NPHS came away with a 10-7 lead.
Then with a little momentum, the Lady Dawgs expanded the lead to 17-10 after Kylie Wroot freeballed one into a hole in Kearney's side of the court. North Platte then closed out the first set shortly thereafter.
In the beginning of the second set, Allison Sawyer went on a roll, scoring the first six points for the Lady Bulldogs. Kearney never really threatened and NPHS was one more set away from victory.
"I think we got off to a good start," Miller said. "We just took care of business. Blocking-wise, we did well. We got a lot of touches at the net."
With four of eight players in North Platte's rotation being either a freshman or sophomore, the Lady Dawgs have shown to have a hard time handling prosperity and that's what happened in the third set.
Kearney's Maggie McGowan stunned NPHS with a run of nine points to give the Bearcats a 12-3 lead.
Anna Allberry went on a run of her own to get the Bulldogs going and a tip by Allison Kuenle brought them within 13-10.
North Platte even got within one at 15-14 after Wroot made a kill that followed a kill by Kuenle. But Kearney got the serve back after the Lady Bulldogs mishandled a freeball by Katie Higgins.
The Lady Bearcats scored the next two plays as Kuenle hit the ball out and Carrie Oaklund served for an ace. NPHS never got as close again and it went to a fourth set.
"Our passing broke down," said Miller. "We just weren't communicating. It was a third set lull."
The Lady Dawgs never really got back in the rhythm they had in the first and second sets but some of that was because Kearney found a second wind.
The defending Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference Champion Bearcats took a 10-6 lead in the fourth set after Higgins, a Notre Dame recruit, made a block in the middle.
NPHS came back and tied at 15 after a kill by Kuenle but the Bulldogs still weren't able to get the lead and Kearney then opened up a 21-18 lead. It appeared the match was headed for a fifth set.
North Platte won the next two points to pull within one before the Lady Bearcats scored again to go up 22-20.
But then Olivia Nicholson made a kill for NPHS to make it 22-21 and then her fellow freshman teammate Kuenle spiked one down to tie it up.
Kearney called timeout after the Kuenle kill and coming out of the timeout, Anna Allberry caught the Bearcats off-guard with her serve that landed in the middle of Kearney's defense untouched.
Then the Bulldogs got matchpoint after Jackie Paloucek made a kill. Allberry served the ball into the net to give the Lady Bearcats a new lease on life. But Emily Koski hit the ball into the net on the left side to give North Platte its first win over arch-rival Kearney in three years.
"We were in a funk and we persevered," Miller said. "We had a couple of kids step up in some key moments. (Kearney) definitely had momentum and I didn't want us to go to a fifth set with them."