Brady and Wallace met twice during the last week of September, with Brady winning the first contest 2-0 and Wallace taking a five-set battle in the second match. But when the two faced off in the McGahan Activities Center at McDaid Elementary on Thursday, there was a little bit more on the line — the D2-5 District Championship and a trip to the Nebraska State Volleyball Tournament in Grand Island next week.
Both teams have recent history at the state tournament with the Lady Eagles finishing third in the schools fourth trip to state a year ago. Wallace was trying to return for their seventh state tournament appearance, the last coming in 2010.
Although Wallace got out to a great start in set one, the Lady Eagles battled back to win in four, 25-22, 25-10, 23-25 and 25-15.
Brady coach Lynne Johnson said the year had a question mark on it when her club began their season.
“It wasn’t expected. It was hoped for. It was worked hard for,” Johnson said of back-to-back appearances at state.
“It’s been a long week and they played really, really hard this week. It probably wasn’t their best game tonight, but they did what they had to do.
“When we played Bertrand [in sub-districts], about the fourth set they decided they had to play together, they had to play for each other — not for themselves. In order to finish and make it down [to state], that was the only way they could do it.”
The first set was key, as the Lady Wildcats tore out to a 9-1 lead off the serve of Paige Aylward. Brady seemed to be a little tentative, having trouble staying in rhythm.
Wallace (10-12) continued as Abbey Rohde and Chelsea Sowle put down kills to lead 13-5, but Brady would begin their comeback, scoring six of the next seven points.
Valerie Most contributed two service aces and Alexis Mann had a kill in the run.
Wallace still led at 22-17, but a service error gave the serve back to the Lady Eagles and Carissa Rayburn served the next seven and Brady (23-7) ended the set with an eight-point run.
Molly Hannon had a stuff block and kill, and Josie Palmer added two kills before Rayburn ended the set with an ace.
“And then we quit serve receiving,” Wallace coach Elizabeth Strand said of the Lady Wildcats first-set letdown. “Their libero served them from 18 to 25. That momentum kind of carried on into the second set and that wasn’t good at all.”
“You can look at it two ways,” Johnson said. “We were struggling and we could have let go of it.
“I guess that is what they have done about the last half of this season. Keep fighting back every time, and they knew that the games not over until 25. If they just keep after it one point at a time they’re capable of coming back and that’s just what they did.”
Wallace continued to struggle in the second set, allowing Brady to keep the momentum. A six-point run, midway through the set, gave the Lady Eagles a 17-4 lead with the help of two Most kills and two service aces by Dakota Terry. Brady went on to take advantage of Wallace hitting errors to take a 2-0 lead in the match.
Brady looked to finish the match in three, as they held a 23-20 lead in the third set, but the fight in the Lady Wildcats wasn’t done. After Strand called a timeout, Wallace took advantage of four straight hitting errors by the Lady Eagles and Christina Daniels found the floor on a tip to send the match into the fourth set.
The Lady Eagles’ passing game struggled at times throughout the evening.
“That’s kind of the problem we had in the first set too,” Johnson said. “Our passing wasn’t very on and the girls knew it. They just have to know to go to the basic skills and pass the ball to their setter. I think they relaxed a little bit too much.”
The fourth set was tight until Terry stepped up her attack game, finishing the set with five kills. Two came in a seven-point run that took the Lady Eagles lead from 13-11 to 20-11. Terry gave Brady a 21-13 lead on a kill and finished the set and match with back-to-back kills.
“If that first set goes differently — we finish the job and it could have been a whole different ball game,” Strand said. “We let it slip out of our hands.
“We missed our serves, we quit talking, and our serve receive broke down instead of making Brady make the mistakes.
“They executed when they had to. They’re a good team, they played good defense and took care of business. But the girls came back in the third set and they fought until the end of that fourth set.”
Johnson said, “We had a hard time getting any rhythm tonight, but they fought through that before and sometimes we just have to play out of system.
“Wallace was playing good. They were giving us some off-speed hits and the girls just decided they weren’t going to let it drop.”
Johnson hopes her team can pull from their experience from state a year ago.
“I hope state experience works good for us, because we’ll probably end up playing the No. 1 seed,” the coach said. But they made it down there, they worked hard to do it, and they can just about do anything if they put their minds to it.”
Following are the Brady statistics:
Valerie Most – 10 kills and three aces serves; Dakota Terry – nine kills and 12 set assists; Josie Palmer - seven kills; Madison Elliott – seven kills and 12 digs; Molly Hannon – 2 kills; Carissa Rayburn – 21 digs; Sydney Widick – 23 assists.
Following are the Wallace statistics:
Abby Rhode – 24-of-27 with five kills; Christina Daniels - 21-of-29 with 10 kills; Sara Hubbard – 24-of-26 with six kills and 12 points; Anna Griffiths – 16-of-16 serving with two ace serves, 11 points and 55-of-57 setting with 16 set assists; Alexandria Lundvall – 35-of-37 setting with seven set assists.