Photo by James Parrish
The Lady Dawgs, clad in pink to support Breast Cancer awareness, gather before the third set.
With the exception of a third-set hiccup, the North Platte High School volleyball team closed its home season Tuesday night by playing its best volleyball of the year, defeating Grand Island.
"I thought we played really well except the third set," NPHS coach Laura Miller said of the 25-18, 25-18, 10-25, 25-20 victory. "I was glad to see the consistency we had in the first, second and fourth sets."
The two teams battled for the first 10 points of the match but the Lady Bulldogs (16-10) took control midway through the first set. Alex Neff served for three straight points to give North Platte a 17-12 lead. The first of the three points came on an ace by Neff and the last two came on kills by Anna Allberry and Allexis Menghini.
Grand Island (15-17) never really got back in it and the Lady Dawgs took the early advantage.
"We're a slow starting team," said Miller. "So it was good to see us get off to a good start. This is probably the best we've played all year."
In the second set, NPHS reached out to a 9-5 lead after Jackie Paloucek and Allison Kuenle made blocks on consecutive plays.
From there, the Bulldogs kept a steady lead in the 4-6 point range before closing it out by winning the last three points. GI was never able to get a run going as North Platte neutralized its attack with good passing in the back row from libero Madalynn Doughty, who had 37 digs on the night.
"We passed really well and passing well equates into great offense," Miller said. "We distributed the ball pretty well and that just makes it difficult for our opponents."
But the Lady Dawgs fell apart in the third. The Islanders scored the first four points with Mackenzie Fyfe serving and from there, the tables turned on NPHS.
On her next run in service, Fyfe served for seven straight to give GI a commanding 20-7 lead before Kylie Wroot finally ended it with a kill that got the biggest cheer of the night from the Bulldog faithful.
"You figure that out, because I still don't know what happened in that third set," said Miller. "I think we just took a deep breath and it was too deep of a breath and we relaxed too much."
The great thing about volleyball, as this year's Lady Bulldog team has proven, is that if you get blown out in a set, you get a clean slate and start over in the next.
North Platte never really had the same rhythm it had in the first and second sets, but it battled the Islanders for momentum to start the fourth.
The Lady Dawgs then made a five-point run with Neff serving to take a 15-10 lead. The closest Grand Island got after that was 19-16 before NPHS put it away to finish undefeated at home for the first time since 2004.
Miller says her team just went back to what was working in the first two sets to beat GI for the second time in four days.
"In the first and second sets, we accomplished our game plan," she said. "So after the third set, our girls knew what they had to do."