October 09, 2019There were important things to take care of before the annual Dig Pink volleyball match between county rivals North Harrison and Corydon Central, this year themed "Claws vs. Cancer."
Cancer survivors and those who had succumbed to the disease were honored, and the two teams joined to form a giant human ribbon on the court to show their togetherness against the disease. Included in the ribbon was North Harrison student Dylan Striet, who is battling leukemia, and his family. All proceeds from the night went to Striet to help with his medical expenses during his personal war against the disease.
Then, the gloves came off for the on-court matchup. After a five-set battle, North Harrison came out with a 3-2 win.
The first game began as a trade war between the two teams until North Harrison went on an offensive run with a service ace from Andrea Ness and kills by Maddie Liebert and Bri Fawver for a 10-5 Lady Cats' advantage. The Lady Panthers failed to find any traction, and North Harrison senior Chloe Jacobi pounded in the final kill of the game for a 25-15 Lady Cats' win.
North Harrison's momentum continued through the early going of game two as the Lady Cats established a 7-2 lead following a kill by Baylee Rudolph and back-to-back service aces via Molly Coomer. That momentum, however, began to come apart as the Lady Panthers chewed their way back into the game with Jessie Johnson drilling a pair of service aces to knot the game at 8-all.
The Lady Cats later went on the attack again as Jacobi and Rudolph had kills and Coomer aced again for an 18-13 Lady Cats' advantage. North Harrison then hit a wall with four hitting errors during the next five side-outs, lead to an 18-all tie. Rudolph killed twice more, but the Lady Cats erred three more times, allowing Corydon Central a 22-21 edge. Savannah Moberly aced for the Lady Panthers, then North Harrison hit out of bounds. The two teams traded the final two points with Cory- don Central getting the 25-22 win.
"The Dig Pink night is always a big night," said Corydon Central coach Chrissy Tuchscherer. "You have the extra stuff with sectional, conference, rival opponents. It's a lot of emotion wrapped in a volleyball game, and we came out a little flat in game one. In game two and three, we played really hard. They got into it and that was good to see. Then, sometimes balls don't drop, and it got a little close on the game floor."
North Harrison worked to get its game back on in the third set, racing out to a 6-1 lead due to Corydon Central committing three errors. The Lady Panthers scored the next three, two of those coming on aces by Bailey Orme. The Lady Panthers later went on a 5-0 run to get a 10-8 edge. That lasted only briefly, however, as North Harrison scored the next three points, with Jacobi killing again for a 13-10 edge. A tug-of-war ensued through the next several side-outs before the Lady Panthers finally went out in front for good when Johnson put in back-to-back kills. Corydon Central got a 25-20 win.
North Harrison coach Caitlyn Burson said her team lost their confidence in the second and third sets.
"It really seems that way because we stopped playing offense," she said. "We were playing way too much defense, and it was because we weren't being as aggressive. I don't know if we were afraid of losing. I thought we were playing not to lose rather than playing to win. We can't play that way. We don't play well mentally that way. So, we have to play aggressively and make other teams play defense more, which is what we focused more on in set four, playing your own game and trying to not do stuff you don't normally do."
The volleyball war continued into game four with five ties before Corydon Central finally got a foothold for an 11-7 advantage. It appeared the Lady Panthers were on their way to a game and match win, but North Harrison made a late charge to close the gap to one, 20-19, after Rudolph blocked for a kill.
Kimi Wolf killed for the Lady Panthers on the next side-out, but Corydon Central then served into the net. Jacobi delivered a kill that was followed by the Lady Cats serving out of bounds. Corydon Central hit out of bounds on its next volley, and Jacobi hammered the next North Harrison point for the lead and moments later got the final point of the game for a 25-23 win, sending the match into game five.
"That was a tough one," Tuchscherer said. "We would have liked to have wrapped that one up, but we sent it into game five. We've got to show up a little bit more."
"It was a very even match and a lot of back and forth," Burson said. "It reminded me a lot of last year, so I think that made me and the girls want it that much more, because we went five last year and it was such a close game and we couldn't close it out."
Game five began as expected with five ties and three lead changes through the first half of the set, with Rudolph keeping the advantage in North Harrison's favor with a kill for an 8-7 edge. Johnson tipped for a Corydon Central point to tie the game, but that would be the last point the Lady Panthers would see. The Lady Cats finished out the game with a 7-0 run, with Jacobi putting the final nail in the coffin for a 15-8 game and match win.
"Sometimes it's a little touch and go," said Tuchscherer. "We need those long stretches, and we need to keep the serve longer and get a consistent offense from early on. A lot of our games tonight we had to come from behind and we had to catch up. In game five, when you're only going to 15 points, you don't have enough time to do that."
"We talked about no missed serves because that carries a lot of momentum," Burson said. "In the second and third, we did and, in the fourth, we missed two back-to-back. That's a huge no-no for us. Serves are your momentum. So, we talked about no missed serves and just staying aggressive the whole time and then playing defense ... just having enough heart to not let the ball hit the floor."
Chloe Jacobi had a huge night with 22 kills for the five games, and Baylee Rudolph was right there with 21 kills and two aces. Maddie Liebert had six North Harrison kills, and Molly Coomer had five aces. North Harrison missed 11 serves on the night but had 10 aces. The Lady Cats finished with 37 errors.
"We wanted Baylee to have focus, and those two (Rudolph and Jacobi), most of the time, are in their own world but they can help focus each other," said Burson. "That's kind of what was going on."
Jessie Johnson led Cory- don Central with 13 kills and three aces, while Autum Anderson followed up with seven kills. Savannah Moberly added four kills and two aces for the Lady Panthers who missed 11 serves but had eight aces for the night. Corydon Central finished with a total of 30 errors.
"She takes advantage," Tuchscherer said of Johnson. "If you put it on the net, she'll put it down on you. She knows how to put away a ball, so that's beneficial for us and a good girl that we get to work around when we have those moments."
The sectional atmosphere of the night was something both teams needed for their final tune-ups before next week's sectional play begins.
"Our student section has been unreal this year," Tuchscherer said. "We have basically a bunch of volleyball groupies that, thank goodness, followed us out to North Harrison tonight and stayed in the ballgame with us. The girls kept feeding off of that energy, which is really beneficial in an emotional game like this. You can't thank them enough. They just stayed with us all night."
"The crowd was awesome, which is great because it was for a great cause," Burson said. "It was awesome to have a ton of people here. That always changes the element of the night, too. Their crowd was great. Our crowd was great. I think it's just learning to play with that energy and not play against it. I think that was good for us tonight, to not get too caught up in what's going on over here."