North Adams finishes at 20-4 –
Mark Carpenter –
It wasn’t supposed to end that quickly, but end quickly it did. “It” being the 2016 season for the North Adams Lady Devils varsity volleyball squad. After defeating Eastern Brown to capture a Division III sectional title, the Lady Devils traveled to Waverly High School on Oct. 25 to face off with the Southeastern Lady Panthers, a team that North Adams had beaten in five sets in their season opener way back in August.
There was to be no five-set excitement on this night as Southeastern caught the Lady Devils on a rare bad night, a really bad night, and the Lady Panthers took full advantage, taking the match in three sets, 25-14, 25, 15, and 25-12, the most convincing defeat that the Lady Devils had suffered in quite a long while.
Both teams possesses a wealth of talent and a wealth of size, so a battle all night at the net was expected, but the net was controlled all night by Southeastern’s Ella Skeens, who continually thwarted the North Adams attempts at volleys and kills, while tossing in numerous emphatic kills of her own.
There weren’t many times in the match where the score could be deemed close, but early in the first set, the teams traded points and worked to a 5-5 tie, but that didn’t last long. Southeastern’s Danica Moore stepped up to the service line and when she was finished, the Lady Panthers had a commanding 15-5 advantage. That string of serves seemed to take a lot of wind out of the North Adams sails and the Lady Devils never recovered. A pair of kills by Skeens put Southeastern up 20-10 and two service points from Jessica Boite pushed the lead to 13. A block by Avery Harper temporarily kept North Adams alive but two of the set’s final three points went the way of the Lady Panthers as they took the set 25-14.
After the first set defeat, the Lady Devils regrouped and played a much better second set. An early kill by senior Madison Jenkins kept it close, but the kills from Skeens kept coming and in the blink of an eye, Southeastern was in front 15-8, forcing North Adams head coach Katie Ragan to burn a timeout. The short break worked as the Lady Devils came back with their best few minutes of the match, getting four consecutive service points from Brooklyn Stout to pull within 15-13 and stayed just two points back later when Jenkins got the rare service point and back row kill together. That brought the North Adams girls within 17-15, but the roof soon caved in when Skeens stepped to the service line and served out the set, including three consecutive aces, as the Lady Panthers grabbed set number two 25-15.
With their work now cut out for them and being in the unfamiliar spot of being down by two sets, the Lady Devils couldn’t have had a worse start to the third set as Southeastern rode the strong serves of Skylar Hice to a quick 8-2 lead and things were looking bleak for the Adams County squad.
The Lady Panthers never took their foot off the gas and led the entire third set, extending the advantage to 18-7 on four service points from Morgan Wilson. The Lady Devils got a nice kill from Harper and a later service ace from Abby Campton but it was not to be enough, as fittingly a kill by Skeens ended the match and ended the North Adams season with the 25-12 win by the Lady Panthers.
In the disappointing defeat, the Lady Devils were led by 10 kills and 6 blocks from Jenkins, 19 assists and 12 digs from Sydney Kendall, and 5 kills from Harper. The loss also marked the final match in the outstanding careers of a pair of North Adams seniors, Madison Jenkins and Maddie Toole.
“Madison and Maddie will be missed and hard to replace,” said Coach Ragan. “Madison finished her career with 824 kills, 169 aces, and 171 blocks. Maddie finished with 1,315 digs and 111 aces. They have both been great players for our program but more importantly they are wonderful people that I have been privileged to coach for four years. They both have great futures ahead of them.”
“As a whole, our season was very good,” Ragan continued. “We won our fourth consecutive gold ball and our third consecutive sectional championship, along with beating some teams that we had never beaten before.”