Times Sports Editor
Thursday's volleyball game at Northview High School had the feel of a postseason game and for good reason as the visiting Mustangs from Edgewood brought an unbeaten (5-0) mark into the Knights' house in a battle for the Western Indiana Conference lead.
An electric atmosphere, a huge student showing and a loud crowd made the match a series of emotional swings as the Knights pulled out the final three games to take a 23-25, 12-25, 25-21, 25-17, 15-9 victory to improve to 5-0 this season.
The first game of the night didn't disappoint as both teams played some powerful volleyball in a tight contest that was tied at 20, 21, 22 and 23 before the Mustangs won on a tipped ball.
However, the Knights looked a bit shellshocked in a mistake filled second that Edgewood dominated for a 25-12 win and a two-game lead in the best-of-three battle.
"I thought we played above our years, but in the first two games we played at our years," Northview coach Scott McDonald said. "We made a lot of mental mistakes, missed serves, net calls, hitting balls out of bounds. We did a lot of things that we're not normally going to do. The thing we talked about after the second game when (Edgewood) absolutely hammered us was to stay aggressive and our setters did a phenomenal job the last three sets. We've got three girls with more than 15 kills. They stepped up at the right time when we needed it."
The second game proved to be a wake up call for a Northview team that plays a combined five, freshmen and sophomores.
The Mustangs got eight kills in the first two games from senior Sarah Ratliff and 6'1 Angela Thacker and her 6'0 sister proved imposing at the net for the Northview hitters before the Knights made some adjustments before the third game.
"We were taking the line away from them early and funneling everything to the middle and (Edgewood) was just hitting great cut shots," McDonald said. "We started mixing up our blocking schemes, I thought it confused their hitters a little bit. Those first two games, (Edgewood) did pretty much anything they wanted."
The momentum carried into the fourth game as Riddell, who had a team-high 17 kills opened with an attack. Kumpf followed with another and the Knights were rolling.
A block from Riddell and a kill from Kumpf followed by an Edgewood net call pushed the lead to 17-9 as the Knights rolled to a 25-17 victory to tie the match.
McDonald was quick to mention how outstanding the team effort was for the Knights.
"You can go down the line, (Audrey) Clark and (Ashlen) Buck had their normal great effort, our hitters were outstanding," McDonald said. "I thought Hannah Willocks and Alexus Bex, they got served a lot and they gave us a lot of great balls to hit. That was a complete team effort in a game that I've been nervous about for a week and a half. (Edgewood) is really good and well coached and they are big. That was a growing up game right there."
In the decisive fifth game, Northview opened up with kills from Riddell and Kumpf and a tip from Taylor Hess that put the Knights up 6-0 before Rommell stopped the run with a kill for the Mustangs.
However, the Knights weren't about to let the match get away as Willocks smashed her fourth kill of the night for a 10-5 lead. The Mustangs clawed back to within 13-8 as Rachel Delay blocked an attack, but Morris destroyed the ball for her final kill and Riddell finished off the 15-9 victory.
Briana Cook and Hess ran the offense with 24 assists apiece and Cook added 12 digs. Riddell had 17 digs and two blocks and Kumpf added another 11 digs. Mikayla Rowan had three kills and two blocks and Buck posted 24 digs to lead the squad. Clark had eight digs for the Knights.
In the JV match, the Knights won in two games.
The Knights are now 1-0 in the WIC and will get a stern test at the Avon Invite on Saturday that is hosted by the Class 4A top-ranked Orioles.
"I'll tell you, the game ball goes to our student section," McDonald said. "It's getting better and better every game. When the football kids came in that just elevated our play even more. Tomorrow night will be our turn, we'll go to their game and cheer them on to beat Edgewood again."
Next game: Northview (5-0 overall) plays at the Avon Invitational on Saturday at 9 a.m.