Norfolk Catholic, state-ranked No. 7 in Class C2, showed it can handle varied circumstances while defeating Hartington Cedar Catholic in three sets Tuesday night.
The Knights came from behind to win the first set 28-26, pulled away late to take an ever-so-even second set 25-22, then closed out the match by winning the third set handily 25-14 to improve to 7-2 on the season.
In the first set, the Trojans pulled away to a 10-3 advantage after Laney Kathol served up six straight ace serves.
“That’s not typical for us; they had two tough servers back-to-back,” Knights coach Michaela Bellar said. “And I don’t think we handled it well.”
“Cedar also adjusted what they did against us two weeks ago; they moved their middle (hitter) to the outside,” she said. “I think our girls were trying to figure that out but were getting confused trying to adjust.”
Norfolk Catholic gradually worked its way back into the contest — with Allison Brungardt contributing four kills along the way — while the Knights’ defense began to assert itself, forging a 24-24 tie.
Then, after two more tie scores at 25 and 26, Norfolk Catholic wrapped up the 28-26 win on Avery Yosten’s third kill and Cedar Catholic’s four-hit penalty — the Trojans’ 12th mistake of the set.
“I thought they got us out of system quite a bit, but that’s a credit to them for doing that,” Bellar said. “So we weren’t able to go to Avery as much as we’d like to, but I thought we adjusted over time and she got a few good swings.”
The second set was a back-and-forth battle featuring eight tie scores and five lead changes, the last of both occurring when the Knights broke loose from a 19-19 tie on Addison Corr’s kill. The Knights then maintained the advantage with kills from Yosten on a slide, along with a cross-court slam from Corr and a blast from Brungardt through a pair of Cedar Catholic blockers. That negated two kills by the Trojans’ Kathol and closed out the second set 25-22.
“I thought we did a better job of attacking, which is a credit to our defense for getting the ball up and our setter Saylor Fischer for getting the ball in front,” Bellar said. “In the first couple sets, we weren’t able to attack; we went into a tipping game, and that’s never good for us.”
“We tipped well, but then our girls kept tipping and kept tipping,” she said. “And that’s not where our identity, the strength of our athleticism, is.”
The Norfolk Catholic defense continued to control play in the 25-14 third-set win as the Knights accumulated 15 kills — with Corr totaling four — while allowing the Trojans just six. The Knights also both directly and indirectly coerced Cedar Catholic into six attack errors.
“I thought we played better defense in the third set, which was good to see,” Bellar said. “I thought we got a lot of touches on blocks, and our girls adjusted to the game well. We had a lot of girls make ‘extra effort’ plays.”
“We just need to start better in the upcoming games, because I don’t think we’ve really gotten off to a great start so far this season,” she said.
Corr paced the Knights in kills with 12, followed by Yosten’s 10 and Brungardt’s nine. Fischer contributed 35 set assists in the match.
Defensively, Fischer led the way with 18 digs and Brungardt recorded 13, with Letizia Fumagalli totaling 12 and Corr adding 11.
Norfolk Catholic (7-2) defeats Hartington Cedar Catholic (4-9) 28-26, 25-22, 25-14