For the second time in four days, the North Platte Lady Bulldogs and Grand Island Lady Islanders hooked up in a volleyball match, this time in the Dawg House at North Platte High School. The teams played last in the Kearney Triangular, with the Lady Bulldogs coming out on top in the 3-set match.
Tuesday would have the same outcome, as the Lady Bulldogs rode the passing of libero Madalynn Doughty to down Grand Island 25-19, 25-18, 10-25 and 25-20.
Doughty recorded 37 defensive digs during the four sets in leading the Lady Bulldogs.
“Their libero was outstanding,” said Grand Island coach Bill Root. “The difference I thought was, in terms of keeping them focused and keeping it from going five [sets], was their libero. She had a great match, dug a lot of balls and gave them an opportunity in the fourth set to pull ahead.”
North Platte coach Laura Miller also praised her defensive leader.
“Madalynn did an awesome job today,” the coach said. “She was digging balls from one side to the other side of the court. She was passing really well and came to play tonight.”
North Platte won the first two sets in much the same fashion. In set one the score was tied at 10 apiece and the Lady Bulldogs scored 7-of-9 to lead 17-12. North Platte's Anna Allberry had five kills in the set.
“I was really excited to see us start well today, so that was good,” said Miller. “I think that is probably the best we've played, minus the third set.
“As a team that is probably the best we've played so far and that's exciting. This is the time [of year] we're supposed to put things together.”
In set two, the score was knotted at five when North Platte (16-10) scored 8-of-10 to get some separation, but the Lady Islanders closed to within four at 21-17 on a Sarah Splattstoesser service ace.
The Lady Bulldogs were able to hold off Grand Island down the stretch as they had two kills by Olivia Nicholson, a kill from Allison Kuenle, and Jackie Paloucek ended it with a stuff block.
“I thought in the first set we didn't play very well, but I didn't think North Platte played their 'A' game,” Root said. “I thought in the second set we played a lot better, but they started playing really well.
“I was really happy with what we did in the second set. The first set the effort wasn't there and we weren't ball-handling very well.”
The third set was all Grand Island. The Lady Islanders raced out to a 12-6 lead and never looked back. After North Platte got a kill from Kuenle, Grand Island went on an 8-point run as Ashton Riedy stepped back to serve. When she finished, the Lady Islanders led 20-7.
“The difference in the match — like the third set versus the rest — we were out of system too much,” Root said. “We're too small of team. We can afford to be out of system about 40 percent of the time, but we were out of system about 60 percent of the time.
“In set three we were probably in system 80 percent of the time. So if we're in system we can compete with a team like North Platte. North Platte's size affects us because we're pretty small.”
In the fourth and decisive set, Grand Island (15-17) tied the score at 10-10 on a Kirsten Sullivan kill, the seventh tie in the set. But as they did in the opening two sets, the Lady Bulldogs put together a 5-point run to take a 15-10 lead. The two teams traded points the remainder of the set, until Nicholson found the right back corner of the court for the match-ending kill.
“You could see from the little bit of stating I do from the bench, the first and second sets we accomplished our game plan exactly like we wanted to,” Miller said. “The third set wasn't that way so they knew exactly what they needed to do going into that fourth set — and they pretty much did that, so I was really excited.”
North Platte had four girls with eight of more kills on the evening, and hit a sterling .308 percent in the final set with 14 kills on 39 attacks with only two errors.
“That's kind of been the case the last few matches we've been in,” said Miller of the Lady Bulldogs attacking offense. “Everybody has stepped up a little bit.
“It's exciting to see we're not just dominant in any one position. That will really help us going into GNAC and Districts.”
North Platte will travel to Columbus this Saturday for the Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference Meet. The Lady Bulldogs are the No. 1 seed and will play Lexington at 10 a.m. in the first round. With a win over the Minutemaids, North Platte would play the winner of McCook and Norfolk.
Later today, North Platte should find out where they will be playing their district games.
North Platte statistics: Madalynn Doughty – 1 set asst, 37 def digs; Allison Kuenle – 10 kills, 2 service aces, 6 def digs, 1 solo blk, 1 blk asst; Anna Allberry – 9 kills, 7 def digs; Olivia Nicholson – 8 kills, 1 set asst, 2 def digs, 2 solo blks; Jackie Paloucek – 3 kills, 1 solo blk, 1 blk asst; Alex Neff – 20 set assts, 2 service aces, 8 def digs; Kylie Wroot – 9 kills, 1 def dig; Allie Sawyer – 1 kill, 19 set assts, 14 def digs; Alexis Menghini – 5 kills, 1 set asst, 2 def digs.