North Adams downs visiting Lynchburg in four sets, Kendall sets assist record –
Story and photo by Mark Carpenter –
One of the more exciting volleyball matches of the 2017 season took place on Tuesday, Oct. 3 at North Adams High School, with the Lady Devils putting their 59-game Southern Hills Athletic Conference winning streak on the line against the visiting Lynchburg Clay Lady Mustangs. The Lady Mustangs proved to be a major challenge, putting the North Adams squad to an extreme test, but it was the home team surviving to pull out the win in four sets, 25-17, 23-25, 25-23, and 25-21.
You would be hard-pressed to find a volleyball match with more momentum swings than what Tuesday night’s provided. Each team went on streaks of service points, back and forth, as the match kept fans on the edge of their seats, especially those of North Adams who could sense their winning streak being in peril.
“We get everybody’s best game,” said 15-year North Adams head coach Katie Ragan in her post game radio interview. “A team could be having a bad year but everyone in the conference gets up to play us. Even if we are having an off night, we still get their best game.”
“We just made so many mistakes tonight, though it was certainly good to be challenged.”
The first set of the match began with North Adams looking like they were going to run the Lady Mustangs right out of the gym, as the home team raced out to an 12-1 lead behind the strong serves of Abby Campton and Brooklyn Stout. Though Lynchburg scored four of the next six points, the Lady Devils were able to eventually extend the advantage to 20-6 on a Charlee Louden service ace.
Then the momentum shifted to the visitors as five service points by Autumn Williams made it 20-12 and once they regained the side out, five more points off the serves of Mia McCammon pulled Lynchburg within 22-17, but that was as close as they were to get. When a Lynchburg return went long and gave the serve back to North Adams, the set cam full circle as Campton finished what she started with a pair of service points that wrapped up a 25-17 first set victory for the Lady Devils.
Besides the SHAC winning streak, something else significant was on the line at Tuesday’s match as North Adams senior setter Sydney Kendall was on the verge of breaking the school record for career assists, a record previously held by Kayla Baker with 1,865. With the Lady Devils up 6-5 in the second set, a Kendall assist resulted in a Louden kill and assist number 1,866 in the senior’s career. The game was stopped and Coach Ragan presented Kendall with the game ball and when play resumed, Kendall showed another of her many talents on the courts, hitting six service points in succession, including three aces, to give her team a 12-5 lead.
“Sydney is the one who transitions our defense into offense as the setter,” says Ragan. “The setter is the hardest position to play because you are constantly running and you have to make a thousand decisions a night. She will likely hit 2.000 assists sometime next week which is an amazing accomplishment.”
After Kendall’s heroics, back came the Lynchburg squad, with Tylar Griffith reeling off eight straight from the service line, and suddenly the Lady Mustangs had grabbed the advantage at 14-12. After one North Adams points, the visitors added on three more to move in front 17-13.
Once again, the momentum shifted to the home side and the serves of senior Adison Wright, whose five in a row put the Lady Devils back on top at 19-17. Three straight for the Lady Mustangs put them back in front, before four for North Adams flipped the lead again, this time to 23-20 North Adams, with the home team poised to take the second set.
The Lady Mustangs had other ideas, however, and McCammon stepped up to serve and five points later, the match was tied at one piece as Lynchburg had rallied again to win an exciting set number two 25-23.
“When you have to see another team celebrate on your own home floor,” that should certainly fire your team up,” said Coach Ragan. “It just didn’t tonight and I was disappointed with the way we came out for the third set.”
The momentum from winning the second set certainly carried over to the third set for the Lady Mustangs as they shocked the Lady Devils and their faithful by racing out to a commanding 15-2 lead behind the serves of Makayla Creed and Ashley Ernst, combined with some really sloppy play on the part of the home team. It had been a long time since the Lady Devils faced such a deficit in an SHAC match, so it was time for a miracle and that is exactly what occurred.
The comeback began with the combo of a pair of Louden kills, as she began to find her groove, and a series of Delaney Harper serves, picking up some of the slack for her older sister Avery, who missed the match with an injury. That pulled North Adams back to within 15-10 and after the Lady Mustangs scores a point, the Lady Devils went back to work, getting five straight points to narrow the gap to just 16-15. A later Louden kill put the home team up 18-17 and the two teams traded points back and forth until Stout found an open spot on the Lynchburg side and then fired off a service ace to put her team in front 23-22. Lynchburg tied the score but a Lady Mustang return into the net and then a combined block by Louden and Wylie Shipley provided the two points that completed a miraculous comeback and gave the third set to North Adams, 25-23.
“After we got down 15-2, said Ragan, we started playing the way we should have at the beginning of the set. I told the girls in a timeout that I knew we were missing Avery and our offense was struggling and we were just going to have to dig and pass more and show that we wanted it more than Lynchburg did.”
Now with the momentum firmly planted back on their side, the Lady Devils jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the fourth set, before the Lynchburg girls rallied yet again to tie the score at 7 each. The serves of Kendall and Wright pushed the home team back out to a 14-9 advantage and they continued to add to that lead, taking it all the way to 21-13 on a Kendall ace. The spunky Lady Mustangs were not out of gas just yet, and they tallied seven of the set’s next nine points to make things interesting and draw to within 23-20, but a pair of kills by Stout proved to be the difference as the Lady Devils took the fourth set 25-21 and escaped with their SHAC mark still intact, taking the match three sets to one.
“Offensively I knew we would struggle without Avery and she does help our defense with her blocking ability,” said Ragan. “That block at the net really helps your back line from getting the ball cranked at them.”
On her record breaking night, Kendall dished out 32 assists and served five aces, with Louden racking up 19 kills and 22 digs and Stout contributing nine kills and 12 digs.
The two teams will meet again on Thursday, Oct. 12 in Lynchburg, in what should be another outstanding match, but that only comes as the Lady Devils’ fourth match in four nights, as they face Northwest at home on Monday, Oct. 9, travel to Ripley on Tuesday, Oct. 10, and Wednesday, Oct. 11 at Greenfield McClain.