Northmor volleyball’s most successful season came to an end Thursday night at Millbury Lake High School in the regional semifinals.
Competed against state-ranked and undefeated Tinora, the Knights fell by scores of 25-15, 25-18 and 25-22 to end their season with a 20-6 mark.
“We knew they only lost one set all season and our goal was to come out and play well,” said head coach Kara Wright. “But we didn’t fire up like in the past and it took a while to make adjustments.”
Both of the first two sets played out in much the same way, with Tinora jumping out to a big lead early on and holding on for the win, while Northmor struggled to tally points off their serve. In the first game, three points from Hannah Horn, two from Baylee Rex and four from Aubrey Reineke helped boost the Rams to a 15-5 lead.
While Aly Blunk and Lily Tate both scored points for Northmor, they still trailed 19-8 after a pair of points were served by Horn. Northmor would get within a 20-13 margin thanks to three points from Anna Donner, but the team wouldn’t get any closer in the game, as they fell by a nine-point margin.
The second set was opened by Horn scoring for four quick points to stake the Rams to an early lead. Trailing 11-5, the Knights got three points from Blunk to cut their deficit in half, but then went without offensive points over their next four service attempts. When Abby Donner broke that drought with a point, the team trailed by a 20-14 margin and would eventually fall 25-18.
“We weren’t able to get film, but we had to look at their stats and at other ways to see them,” said Wright. “We adjusted our block on them a bit to force them to hit down the line and adjusted our hitting approach to hit down the line. Between games two and three, we said let’s see what we can do if we play our game without mental errors and stressing about what game it is.”
Facing elimination in the third set, Northmor put forth their best showing of the night. Trailing 8-7, the team got four points from Tate to take an 11-8 lead. Tinora immediately bounced back with a defensive point followed by three from Tori Morlock to take a one point lead, but Northmor had an answer when they scored on defense and got a score from Macy Miracle to lead 13-12.
Two points from Hanna Bentley gave the Knights a 16-13 advantage, but they would not be able to score off their serve again in the game. While the team played solid on defense, the handful of points they did surrender would prove costly, as two points from Rex tied the score at 18 and one from Morlock gave the Rams a 21-20 lead.
Then, holding a 22-21 advantage, the team got two from Horn. Northmor got a defensive stop to stay alive at 24-22, but would not score on their next serve attempt to give Tinora match point. Wright noted that her team’s seniors (Tate, Bentley, Blunk and Anna Donner) played a huge role in the program’s recent success.
“Losing four seniors — they’ve had a huge impact in the program,” she said. “But our ninth, 10th and 11th graders got to experience something they never have before.”
Bentley finished with two blocks and one ace; Donner tallied one block, nine kills, 10 digs and five assists; Tate had one block and eight assists and Blunk had 10 digs in their final match with the Knights. Also, Leslie Brubaker had two blocks and eight kills; Miracle contributed one block, nine kills and 11 assists and Julianne Kincaid added four kills.
The coach added that the past week has been a memorable one for the school’s athletic program. Not only did the volleyball team advance to its first regional appearance, but the football team is playing in its second ever playoff game (first at home) and the girls’ cross country squad also qualified for the state meet.
“It has been exhausting and exciting in the same breath,” she said. “We have felt tons of support all week from the boosters, community members and families. They made it memorable for them and for me.”