KEARNEY – North Platte’s anticipation for its match at Kearney Catholic nearly worked against the Bulldogs Thursday night.
After stumbling out of the gate, North Platte rebounded for a 15-25, 25-15, 25-23, 25-19 victory over the Stars in front of a capacity crowd, snapping Kearney Catholic’s 40-match winning streak in the process.
North Platte, ranked #6 in Class A, improved to 25-5 with the win while Kearney Catholic, ranked #1 in Class C-1, dropped to 27-1.
“We were on emotional overload,” North Platte coach Laura Miller said. “The girls have been excited to play this match since we put it on the schedule and it had been building and building and it boiled over in the first set.”
After falling 25-15 in the first set, North Platte evened the match at 1-1 by taking the second set 25-15. Between the second and third sets, Miller and the Bulldogs left the gym to get refocused.
“We had to get out of the gym and get everyone calmed down” Miller said. “They couldn’t hear me without me screaming at them and that wasn’t the way I wanted them to hear me. We just needed to take some deep breaths and calm down.”
It appeared early in the third set that Miller’s strategy worked as the Bulldogs got out to early leads of 8-3 and 13-8. Kearney Catholic, however, stormed back and cut the lead to 13-12 on a kill by Anna Squires and later went ahead 15-14 on a Callie Opbroek kill.
The two teams then went back-and-forth as the third set was tied at 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 and finally at 23-23. North Platte took the lead at 24-23 when the Stars were called for a lift trying to dig up a hit from the Bulldogs’ Olivia Nicholson. Nicholson, a Colorado State recruit, followed with a kill in the middle to give North Platte a 25-23 win in the set and a 2-1 lead in the match.
The Bulldogs never trailed in the fourth set, but Kearney Catholic got within 18-17 on an ace serve from Jenny Beans. North Platte would end the match on a 7-2 run, though, with a kill by Allison Kuenle ending it and setting off a North Platte celebration.
Wrapping up the match in the fourth set was important, North Platte senior middle Jessy Hunt said.
“We knew we needed to win that set, we didn’t want to go to a fifth set,” Hunt, who finished with two kills and five blocks, said. “Everyone stepped up and played their game.
“Kearney Catholic is really good and they played tough.”
Kuenle had a match-high 22 kills for North Platte while Nicholson added 21. Madison Squires and Kylie Thiele each had 10 kills for the Stars.
#7 North Platte def. #8 Kearney Catholic 15-25, 25-15, 25-23, 25-19.
North Platte (kills-ace serves-blocks)
Olivia Nicholson 21-3-2, Kaitlynn Harvey 6-3-0, Allison Kuenle 22-0-0, Jessy Hunt 2-0-5.
Kearney Catholic (kills-ace serves-blocks)
Madison Squires 10-1-1, Allie Prososki 1-0-0, Callie Opbroek 8-0-1, Whitney Colling 0-3-0, Kylie Thiele 10-0-1, Morgan Stute 4-3-0, Anna Squires 5-0-3, Courtney Shundoff 5-0-1, Jenny Beans 0-1-0.
Assists: North Platte 48 (Alex Neff 41, McKenna Butler 4, Nicholson 2, Ella David 1). Kearney Catholic 38 (Prosoki 36, Whitney Colling 1, Madison Squires 1).