By ROB HAMILTON
A big comeback in the second set led Northmor through sectionals in volleyball by a 25-16, 25-23, 25-16 margin over visiting Cardington on Saturday.
After winning the first game, the Knights found themselves trailing for much of the second to the Pirates after splitting their two regular-season contests. Cardington’s defense held Northmor quiet on their first five service attempts, while the Pirates got one point from Markayla Sites and two each from Racheal Rees and Marissa Hall to take a 10-5 lead.
After getting two more points from Rees, forcing a quick defensive stop and getting one point from Rylie Partlow, the score was 16-10. However, Northmor would battle back. Hope Miracle scored twice and then Caitlin Thebeault added four points to give Northmor a lead.
Cardington tied the game with a defensive stop, but Northmor quickly got the ball back, leading to Anna Donner serving for four points. Trailing 23-19, the Pirates were able to tie things up behind four points from MaKenna McClure. However, Northmor forced a stop to set up game point and Lindsey Wiseman delivered to put the Knights up 2-0 in the best-of-five series.
“I told the locker room ‘good job’ to the girls with the big swings to give us momentum,” said Northmor coach Kara Wright. “Winning game two was huge. Cardington worked hard all season to get here. They’ve done a great job to build their program.”
Pirate coach Kendra Mosher could feel the momentum changing.
“I was excited with how we were playing in the second, but I think we took a couple mental breaks,” she said. “That was a momentum killer for us. It would have made a big difference at 1-1.”
Northmor then got out to a quick start in the third game, getting three points from Jordyn Zoll and four more from Kelsie Fike to take an early 8-1 lead. Cardington would not be able to recover in falling 25-16 to allow the Knights to advance to district competition.
“We let out a lot of energy in the second and got a little upset things didn’t go our way,” said Mosher, explaining how the result of the second set bled into the third.
In the first game, things were tightly contested until Northmor went on a mid-game run. Leading 8-7, the Knights got a defensive point and then got two points each from Anna Donner, Wiseman and Zoll to expand their lead to a 17-9 margin on their way to taking an early advantage in the match.
Even though Mosher’s team lost on the day, they did finish with a 12-11 record — their first winning mark since 2011.
“Today, I’m disappointed in the loss, but more than thrilled with our season,” she said. “They got sick of losing and being considered a team that’s easy to beat. They met their goals and I’m proud of them.”
The Knights (19-5) will now move to the district semifinals, where Wright is hoping they can take that next step of winning a title.
“It feels good winning sectionals,” she said. “It’s been a big goal. We’re still hunting for a district title and now it’s a matter of who has momentum and can push through.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS