Times Sports Editor
The Northview Knights had their hands full in the Western Indiana Conference opener against the Edgewood Mustangs on Thursday night.
The Knights came away with a 26-24, 26-24, 25-17 victory that was closer than the three-game win might appear.
"We didn't come out of the gate very good," coach Scott McDonald said. "Our concentration wasn't very good and our intensity wasn't very good. Our setting wasn't bad, but there wasn't a lot of phases of the game that we did well. We just got lucky."
The service game got the Knights started like it has in most of its matches during a 4-1 start this season, but unforced errors and a very game Mustangs' squad kept battling.
The Mustangs served out a couple of early aces of their own early in game one, taking a 13-12 lead following a kill by the Knights' Hannah Hayes. Brylie Riddell powered home a kill for Northview, but it was quickly followed by the Mustangs' Hannah Rommell, who rang up an attack.
The game see-sawed with ties at 15, 16, 18 and 19 before an ace by Brittaney Long gave the Knights a lead. Hayes kept Northview out front with a tip to push the score to 23-22, but a hitting error knotted the game at 23-all.
Edgewoods' Rachel Delay blocked a Northview attack to give the Mustangs match-point at 24-23 and forced a timeout by the Knights.
The break appeared to spark the Knights as Alyssa Clarke rocketed home a kill to tie the score and a hitting error by Delay and a kill by Hayes gave the Knights the first game.
After a first game battle, McDonald mentioned that his team needs to realize that they will get every opponents best game after the Knights success in past seasons.
"I told the girls, part of getting to the level where we're at is that we're not the hunter anymore, we're the ones being hunted," McDonald said. "We won the conference last year so we need to elevate our play every time we have a conference game."
Northview came out firing in the second game as Kaylee Clark served up three aces around a kill by Long, one of eight in the game for the senior. The Knights led 5-0 early before the Mustangs began to chip away.
Northview still led 14-11 at the mid-point of the game before the Mustangs' Jaclyn Chaplin served up an ace and Delay drilled home a kill. A misfire by he Knights tied the score at 14-all before Chaplin sent an attack wide to break the Mustangs' serve.
A pair of hitting errors by the Knights gave the Mustangs the lead at 18-17 after a kill by Delay. Hayes and Clarke had successful attacks by the Knights to get Northview within 22-21 before Edgewood made a pair of mistakes of its own.
A net violation call and a hitting error by Sarah Ratliff gave Northview a lead and a pivotal kill by Samantha Solomon off the bench set up a late run the Knights.
Brylie Riddell's kill pushed the game to match-point and the Knights were able to finish off a 26-24 nailbiter.
After a second close game, McDonald took his players aside to discuss the team's play to that point and it jump started a successful third game.
"They toughened up a bit and we had a bit of a heart-to-heart conference after the second game and they came out and played better (in the third game)," McDonald said.
In the final game, Northview took the lead off a pair of kills by Hayes, who had nine in the game. Long added another and Lizzie Emmert's attack opened a 7-5 lead. Ali Sharton, who had 16 assists, served up an ace and the Knights began a 5-0 run off two more kills from Hayes, an ace by Clark and another kill by Riddell.
"She's a very excitable player, so when we had our heart-to-heart talk, she was pretty unhappy, so she came out, especially in that third game and hit the ball well," McDonald said of Hayes. "Our energy level is dictated by what she does. When she plays well and with a lot of emotion, then we play well."
The Knights continued to play better as Lizzie Emmert sank a pair of her five kills and Clark, who had four kills, eight digs and six aces, gave the Knights a 22-14 lead. Hayes added her final kill and Stephanie McMains blocked home the final point of the win.
Ashlen Buck had 11 digs in the game, Riddell added six kills and Hayes had 14 assists and two digs in the victory.
In the JV game, the Knights got great serves from Samantha Montague and strong play at the net from Alexus Bex in a 25-9, 25-16 victory.
The Knights visit Avon for a tournament against tough competition on Saturday morning.
Next game: Northview travels to the Avon Invitational on Saturday at 9 a.m.