NIOBRARA — Hope turned to heartbreak for the Wolfpack Tuesday night as North Central defeated EPPJ in the D1-6 subdistrict final in five games.
The Wolfpack fell to the Lady Knights by the scores of 19-25, 22-25, 25-23, 25-21 and 10-15. It marked the second time in eight days the Wolfpack had come out on the short end of the score against North Central.
North Central appeared ready to sweep the Wolfpack after winning the first two games. With their backs against the wall, the Wolfpack answered back with the fight and grit of a champion to win the next two games.
In Game #3, they fell behind 4-0, then rallied back with eight consecutive service points from Calli Krebs. Elizabeth Selting had four kills in the run, junior Lydia Behnk added two. Behnk started the match in place of senior Amy Nelson who was ill and did not make the trip.
A thorn in the side of the Wolfpack for much of the night, Lady Knight Caitlin Orton was stuffed by Paige Meis and Selting at the net as server Ally Wemhoff put together four service points for a 13 to 7 lead.
North Central rallied to take a 16 to 15 lead. The Wolfpack regained the upper hand on back-to-back kills by Grace Henn. The lead went back and forth, the last tie being at 23-all. Selting then produced a kill, then stepped to the service line to serve game point.
In Game #4, Behnk’s kill on an overpass knotted the score at 10-all. The teams then traded points, as the largest lead for most of the game was just two points.
Jordan Mescher’s big serve turned into a kill by Selting on an overpass to give the Wolfpack a 19 to 18 lead. From that point on, EPPJ would outscore the Lady Knights six-to-two to win the game. Ally Wemhoff had an ace serve and Henn produced a thunderous kill at the net to set up game point which Meis won on her serve.
Wolfpack fans were loud as momentum was on EPPJ’s side to start the fifth game. Having rallied to tie the match at two games apiece, the Wolfpack appeared ready to seize the match. If only it was that easy.
A kill by Behnk started the final game. North Central then ran off five points behind Jadyn Bussinger’s serve and a kill from Jaycee Fleming. North Central maintained the margin the rest of the game.
Three more kills by Fleming boosted North Central’s lead to 10 to five. The Wolfpack answered back with a four-point run featuring kills from Selting and Meis as well as a Selting ace serve. The Lady Knights answered back with a kill from Jadyn Bussingner and an ace serve from Orton sparked a six-to-one run to close out the match.
The loss dropped the Wolfpack’s record to 26-4.
Selting posted a season-high 24 kills as she was 52 of 59 hitting. As a team, the Wolfpack was successful on 154 of 178 attacks. Henn finished with 18 kills, Behnk had eight, Meis added seven and Payne recorded one.
Krebs led the team in ace serves with three, Ally Wemhoff had one as did Selting. EPPJ was 91 of 99 serving.
At the net the Wolfpack recorded 12 solo blocks, led by Behnk with six, Meis and Selting each had two, Henn and Payne each had one.
Mescher led the team with 17 digs in the match. The Wolfpack had 41 digs and 33 dig errors.
EPPJ posted 54 set assists in the match, led by Baylee Wemhoff with 26, Ally Wemhoff had 21 and Payne added seven.
Mescher also led EPPJ in serve receive with 33, Selting had 22 and Krebs had 17. The team was 86 of 94 in serve receive.
By virtue of the victory, North Central advanced to play Lutheran High Northeast Thursday night for the D1-3 District championship, losing in three games.