North Union coach Alexis Maenz rallies her team before the start of the fifth set on Thursday. NU fell to Northwestern. (Journal-Tribune photo by Bob Putman)
Just by the nature of the sport, a volleyball match is always going to have back-and-forth moments.
Thursday’s Central Buckeye Conference contest between North Union and Northwestern had enough swings in action to last the rest of the season.
When the dust had settled, it was Northwestern that earned the victory, downing North Union in five sets, 25-17, 19-25, 25-20, 20-25, 9-15.
“Five setters are always tough,” NU head coach Alexis Maenz said. “It comes down to how you respond to the ups and downs of the match.”
It was Senior Night for the Lady Cats and Maenz said that added to the atmosphere of the night.
“There was a lot of emotion going in because of Senior Night and the game stayed emotional,” she said.
That high emotion led to a very quick start by the Lady Cats.
Paced by three service aces from Candace Holloway, one of the honored seniors, and another by Hope Hall, North Union jumped out to a 5-1 lead.
Kills by Abi Zimmerman and Sienna Ballinger, a combined block by Ballinger and Holloway, and a service ace from senior Kiley Pedersen helped push the advantage to 15-5.
Northwestern closed the gap to six at 22-16, but North Union was able to finish with a 25-17 victory.
Keyed by strong net play by Ballinger (two kills and a block) and two aces by Holloway, North Union rushed out to a 6-0 lead during the ensuing set.
NU, though, could not match its first-set momentum as the Warriors went on an 8-1 run to take an 8-7 lead.
A kill by Hall gave NU back the edge at 12-11, but a six-point spurt by Northwestern gave it a 19-13 margin.
North Union could not recover in losing the second set 25-19.
Northwestern dominated the early portion of the third set, taking a 7-2 lead.
North Union, led by three kills from Riley Heminger, bounced back to close the gap to 9-8.
Hall and Zimmerman also had kills during the comeback.
Pedersen added an ace when the ball crawled up the net and landed on the other side for a point.
The Lady Cats then tallied nine consecutive points for a 17-12 lead.
Holloway notched an ace and Zoe Wedding had two returns for markers during the run.
Points were traded back-and-forth the rest of the set with North Union taking the win, 25-20.
“The set three comeback was something we needed,” Maenz said.
Unfortunately, the Lady Cats were unable to sustain the momentum in the fourth game.
A six-point spurt by Northwestern gave it a 10-6 lead, but North Union battled back to get within one at 18-17.
Three straight kills from Heminger helped bring NU back into contention.
The Warriors (8-10), though, scored four of the last five points of the set for a 25-20 victory to tie the match.
The fifth set went pretty much Northwestern’s way as it had scoring runs of three, four and three to take a 14-6 lead.
The Lady Cats (3-15) battled back with an ace by Holloway, her sixth of the match.
A block by Wedding closed the gap to 14-9, but an NU serve into the net ended the match.
“It is hard to come back in that short of time,” Maenz said of getting down early in the fifth set.
Kayla Sedgwick, North Union’s third senior on the team, finished with 27 digs while Heminger totaled nine kills.
Wedding had 13 assists and Ballinger counted four blocks.
The freshman team lost 25-12, 26-28, 19-25 while the junior varsity dropped a 13-25, 24-25 decision.
North Union returns to action on Saturday at home against Berne Union.