Youth almost pulled off a huge upset.
MCC took the Lady Knights to the limit, battling in five sets before North Platte claimed the match win at the MCC Events Center Wednesday night.
North Platte claimed the first set 25-16, but McCook rallied to win 25-21 in the second set. MCC came out flat in the third set, and North Platte rolled to a 25-12 decision. The host Lady Indians outscored North Platte 7-3 down the stretch in game four for a 25-21 decision to force the fifth and deciding set.
The visitors were in control with an 8-3 lead, but McCook came back to knot the score. A North Platte serve in the net tied the final set at 11-11. The Lady Knights scored three straight points to get to match point, but McCook got a reprieve when North Platte served in the net again. But MCC missed its final serve attempt long, giving North Platte the win.
North Platte improved to 6-2 overall, while MCC is still winless in six tries early this season.
MCC HEAD COACH Natalie Alred was very happy with the performance from her young squad. MCC has just a couple players with college experience from last season. McCook had also faced the Lady Knights Aug. 25 in the North Platte C.C. Invite, and the hosts topped the Lady Indians in three sets (25-13, 25-18, 15-8).
"This is why you play college volleyball," Alred said. "You want to go to those five sets, you want to play those big matches. I think our inexperience hurt us at times. We played them 12 days ago and they basically killed us. We made the adjustments. Coming out playing the third game flat really hurt us."
The MCC coach said MCC hadn't even won a set from the strong North Platte team in many seasons.
"I saw a lot of growth, I saw a lot of effort on our part. The future's bright," Alred said. "They're a little down, but they're also excited, because they also know that this is probably the best a McCook volleyball team has played in a long time. The people that were here tonight, they have to come away, hopefully, wanting more. They are going to want to come back, because these kids are going to do some special things.
"I've been telling them for weeks that we're growing. If we keep going forward -- the end of the season is what matters, we'll shake some head then."
WEDNESDAY'S MATCH was the first in the new MCC Events Center, the $10 million facility that will be home to the McCook two-year college's athletic teams. For the record, the hosts scored the first point of the match when North Platte misfired on the opening serve. But the visitors came back and took control to win the first set.
McCook grabbed an early lead in the second set and settled in for a tough battle. North Platte rallied and tied the score.Vanessa Barilla, MCC freshman from Germany, hit a serve that bounced over the net and fell in for an ace, then a North Platte kill was wide to give the hosts a 20-18 lead. Southwest freshman Madison Mousel blocked a North Platte hit back over the net, causing a double hit and a 24-21 MCC lead. Dianelys Mora's hit for MCC was returned out of bounds for McCook's set-winning point.
North Platte led early in game three and stayed in control throughout the set. After Barilla's kill, North Platte scored two straight points to close out the 25-12 set win.
The fourth set was close all the way. The teams traded points until Samantha Kramer (sophomore from Mullen) and Beth Helmick (freshman from Newton, Ill.) blocked two straight points for MCC, and Barilla tipped in another point to give the Indians a 21-18 advantage. Two North Platte errors gave the hosts a five-point lead, and Helmick's block put MCC at game point. After a North Platte point, Barilla ran from the middle of the front row to the right side and blasted a kill down the line for the winning point at 25-20.
MCC CAME BACK from a five-point lead in the deciding set. A kill and MCC miscue put North Platte ahead 13-11. Former Hitchcock County standout Jacee Kershaw scored on a big hit for North Platte to put the Lady Knights at match point. McCook scored on a net serve by North Platte, then MCC freshman Brooke Juhl couldn't get her serve to fall inside the end line as North Platte claimed the win.
Coach Alred wasn't surprised that her team battled back in the final set.
"They never gave up. This team has a lot of heart," she said. "I've pushed them hard every day in practice. They keep me on my toes a little bit because I have to keep coming up with more innovative things for them. That's what I love about coaching, is when you get a team that you can keep challenging, and they have heart and they want to learn and they want to succeed. We're starting to get a little bit of a jell. If you keep fighting good things are going to happen.
"I'm proud of our team. I wanted the win so bad, I wanted the first match here to be a win. They wanted that more than anything, but some things aren't meant to be. I'm very proud of how they played. This team is going to represent McCook very well."
THE LADY INDIANS will face tough opposition in tournament play at Central Community College in Columbus Friday and Saturday, Sept. 7-8. MCC is scheduled to play two matches Friday at the Raider Fieldhouse on the Central campus north of Columbus, including a 2 p.m. battle with Marshalltown (Iowa) C.C., then North Dakota State College of Science Friday at 8 p.m.
Saturday MCC will face Bismarck (N.D.) State College at 10:30 a.m. and Iowa Western C.C. at 2:30 p.m.
Central C.C. will come to McCook Wednesday, Sept. 12, to face the Lady Indians in a single match at the Events Center starting at 7 p.m.