Late in the third game against Kapaun Mount Carmel on Thursday night, Northwest volleyball coach Dianne Popp leaned forward out of her seat as if she was going to call a timeout. She sat down. After the Grizzlies lost another point, she stood up, looked at the scoreboard, then sat back down.
With a veteran team on the floor, Popp wanted them to work through their struggles. The Grizzlies lost that third game to visiting Kapaun Mount Carmel, and Popp turned to her team again, this time to fix it in the fourth game.
"Popp said, 'talk amongst yourselves. You're a team. You need to figure it out. Pull it together,' " recalled Northwest senior setter Kelsey Darnell. "Us nine seniors stepped in there, and we talked and said there's no way we should have let that game slip away."
Northwest responded and defeated Kapaun 25-14, 25-19, 23-25, 25-17.
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That third game frustrated Popp primarily because the Grizzlies led 22-15.
"With this team, that should never, never happen," she said.
Especially against Kapaun, which has one senior, hitter Jenny Gerlach. Kapaun uses two freshmen and has five juniors — two were playing in their first varsity match. Freshman Sydney Kuhn had a match-high 11 kills, while Gerlach had seven.
"They've been playing together a long time," Kapaun coach Terri Hessman said of Northwest. "They have each other's backs, and we're still learning to do that. But in the third game, we showed a lot of heart, and they'll do anything. Things started to fall for us."
The key for Kapaun was its serving, as the Crusaders took advantage of Northwest's serve-receive struggles. That's been a problem for Northwest in tight matches, including its loss to Blue Valley West, Class 6A's top-ranked team, at the Maize tournament last weekend.
"As veteran as these players are, they're not getting it done," said Popp, whose team is 15-2."... Right now with my back row and my passers, I don't think they're taking responsibility, 'I've got it, let's go, trust me.' "
In the fourth game, Northwest regained control of its passing, setting and hitting. With the Grizzlies leading 15-13, Alaina Shine got a kill from the middle, then she blocked a Kapaun tip for a point. Up 19-14, Shine got another kill on a slide. Then a kill on a shoot. She finished the game with five kills and had eight in the match.
"We know we were better than them, but we had trouble finishing the whole night," Shine said. "... We knew we couldn't go five (games). That wasn't going to happen."
Stephanie Shartzer and Kelsey Berlin led Northwest with nine kills apiece, while Kenzi Lewis and Nikki Daniels each had six kills.
Northwest's Kelsey Darnell
Northwest's Alaina Shine
Northwest volleyball fans cheer
Northwest does the roller coaster
Northwest's roller coaster at Heights earlier in the season