By going 2-1 in the first two days of the Region IX tournament, the North Platte Community College volleyball team made the finals, where they will play Central Community College for the championship on Saturday.On Thursday, the Lady Knights (20-17) beat Southeast Community College 25-16, 25-17, 25-19 to open the tournament at the McDonald-Belton Gymnasium before splitting its two matches on Friday.
After sweeping Southeast, the Knights beat Dawson Community College of Glendive, Mont. 25-10, 25-23, 25-7 to get the second win they needed to make Saturday's finals.
"Against Dawson, the kids played aggressive and confident," said NPCC coach Sally Thalken.
But in the last match of the round robin, Central slammed NPCC 25-20, 25-10, 25-19. Although it was already decided that it would be the Knights and Raiders playing for the championship, it was a disheartening loss for the Lady Knights, who was swept by the Raiders in the two previous matches, as well.
In the first set, Central jumped out to a 6-1 lead after Morgan Heise served for an ace. But NPCC came as close as 21-20 after a kill by Sandrina Hallahan.
But the Raiders got a kill by Heise on the next play and from there, Central scored the last three to take the advantage.
"We were in the game," Thalken said. "But in the first set, we were just unable to win. Central just made plays."
It was the closest set of the night for NPCC. Becky Wessel served for eight straight points to give the Lady Raiders a commanding 14-3 lead in the second set and they never looked back.
"After the first set, I thought we had a good shot in the second set, but Central just drilled us," said Thalken. "We had a hard time executing and they had us on our heels."
In the third set, the two teams played pretty even for the first 10 points. But the Raiders took command with a long run by Chelsea Saalfeld to take an 18-10 lead and that put Central in position for another sweep.
On Saturday, the Lady Knights will have to beat Central twice to advance their season. Thalken said that she believes her team is more evenly-matched with the Raiders than it has shown in the three matches this year. But can it prove so on Saturday.
"We're going to come back tomorrow and anything can happen," Thalken said. "We need to pass the ball and play better defense."