Times Sports Editor
CLAY CITY -- Each season when the Clay City Eels and Northview Knights face each other, in any sport, the rivalry is understandably fierce.
However, when the volleyball teams from each school meet, the squads join forces to help raise money for breast cancer research through the Susan B. Koman Foundation. Prior to the game, fans and players alike all recognize survivors as well as though who have been lost to the disease.
A very strong crowd, decked out in a variety of pink shirts, showed their support for the cause and both Northview coach Scott McDonald and Clay City's Lu Anne Anderson were happy to see so many fans on hand.
"I think this was the best crowd we've had since we started this four years ago," McDonald said of the attendance at Monday's breast cancer awareness volleyball game between the Knights and Clay City. "Hopefully we raise a lot of money for the (Susan B. Koman) Foundation and hopefully we can do our little part to help find a cure."
Anderson also addressed the special night as well as discussing the rivalry between the two schools after having the unique perspective of having coached at both schools.
"We knew we'd be coming in and playing for the cure," Anderson said. "As always, we wanted to come in and raise some money, but lets not take away the fact that you'd better believe that we wanted to win that game."
The Northview Knights, coming off a win at Crawfordsville on Saturday afternoon, went to their strengths, hitting well, serving well and limiting the Eels' attacks to win a 25-23, 25-19, 25-23 match that was every bit as close as the scores indicated.
The Eels wouldn't give up despite trailing early in each of the three games, each set Clay City would narrow the Knights lead and battle to the end.
In game one, Northview got off to a 9-5 lead after a pair of Brylie Riddell aces and used a kill by Kaylee Clark to extend that lead to 12-6 before the Eels' Lynsey Higgins drilled a kill.
Higgins was the Eels leading attacker at the net, piling up nine kills and also registering six blocks for Clay City and creating some match-up problems according to McDonald.
"(Clay City) was very scrappy. (Lynsey) Higgins is an amazing player. She was pretty much the focus like she was last year," McDonald said. "We had to make some adjustments in what we were trying to do because of her athleticism. Overall, my kids battled. I'll tell you, in an environment like this, in a rivalry game, I thought we showed a lot of composure."
The Knights needed some of that poise in the middle of the game as Olivia Schindler served up three straight aces following a block from Higgins. A five-point swing had gotten the Eels within 13-12 before Kalyn Beil had a successful kill for the Knights.
The rest of the game stayed close with Clark smacking a kill and Riddell adding an ace to push the lead to 18-15 and a hitting error by the Eels pushed the gap to four.
The Northview advantage grew to 21-16 before the Eels clawed their way back on a hitting error by the Knights, a kill from Brielle Drelick to tie the score at 22-apiece.
From there however, Northview got a combined block from Elizabeth Emmert and Beil and Riddell pounded a kill for a 25-23 Knights' win.
"(Brylie Riddell) is a tremendous athlete, maybe the best athlete in our school," McDonald said. "She and Shelbi (Morris) were both jumping over the top of (Clay City's) block. So the more swings they can get, the better chance for success we have."
The final game of the night was also tight and was tied early at 8-8 after a kill from Asie Jeffers. Morris gave the Knights a one-point lead with a kill and Ashlen Buck had an ace to give Northview a bit of breathing room.
The lead ballooned to 16-11 after an ace by Emmert and another of Riddell's 13 kills to go with nine aces. Higgins added a kill to halt the run, but Riddell served out three straight aces for a 20-12 lead.
Like they had all night, the Eels fought back on a kill from both Hane and Higgins and a hitting error by the Knights. Emmert's successful attack extended the lead to 23-21, but Higgins answered back.
With the Knights holding a 23-22 lead, Riddell had the final two kills of the night to give Northview the hard fought win.
Buck had 18 digs for the Knights and Briana Cook teamed with Emmert for 35 assists. Morris had 10 kills and Kaylee Clark had 14 digs with seven kills.
Anderson was also proud of an Eels' effort that saw Hane add six kills, Callie Dayhuff posted 13 digs and three kills and Shaya Stevenson had 10 assists and nine digs to go with Olivia Schindler's seven assists.
"We fought tooth-and-nail. Northview limited a lot of our swings tonight, which we're going to have to work on. Our passing was off a little on serve receive, but we only missed one serve tonight and that's way below our season average. So that's a very positive thing," Anderson said. "We had a lot of digs and we were very scrappy. I told the girls that we need to keep our minds on what we're building towards so we can be playing our best volleyball in October."
Also for the Knights, Alexus Bex had four digs and two kills and Audrey Clark added nine digs. For the Eels, LaKyla Cook had five digs and Jeffers had two assists and two blocks.
In the JV game, Northview won in two games to improve to 12-2 overall as Clay City drops to 9-3.
The Eels are now 7-7 overall and the Knights are 13-7 and travel to Terre Haute South this evening at 6 p.m. while the Eels visit Rockville tonight.
At Clay City