It shouldn’t have been so easy.
Northview’s Knights had plenty of things that could have gone wrong in high school volleyball at the Class 3A Edgewood Sectional on Saturday, among them playing a revenge-minded home team on its own court and, after that task had been completed, facing the championship game without one of their key performers against a tall, experienced team that came in with a 21-6 record.
The results? A 27-25, 25-17, 25-13 win over Edgewood in the morning and a 25-14, 25-12, 25-13 win over Brown County in the title game that, with all due respect to a gritty Eagles team that battled hard, wasn’t nearly as close as those scores indicated.
Maybe it was because it was the coach’s birthday.
“Best birthday present I ever had,” Scott McDonald said after the championship match, and after a serenade from the considerable Northview crowd. “I’ve won seven sectionals, five in baseball and two in volleyball, but this is the first one I’ve been able to share with my daughter [Madison McDonald, a sophomore, is one of many stellar Knights], and it’s something I’ll never forget.”
The Knights weren’t perfect Saturday, and there are some teams that might have worried about a tendency to allow its opponent to get back into games that should have been over sooner -- such as when Northview turned a 20-11 lead into a 25-24 deficit before winning the first game against Edgewood.
Northview isn’t a team that tends to worry, however.
“You’re going to give up a few runs,” coach McDonald said after the championship match, “but we were pretty well in control the entire day.”
“There were times when we didn’t show who we were,” senior hitter Shelbi Morris admitted, “but we were able to work through it.
“We always get out of our ruts.”
Indeed, when an opponent shows any sign of gaining some traction against the Knights, they respond emphatically. Morris and Morgan Stearley were both adept Saturday night at coming up with momentum-killing blasts against the Eagles.
And when the Knights got momentum, their runs lasted a lot longer.
Brown County stayed relatively close early -- within 5-4, then 8-5, then 12-8 in the first game. Then Kenzi Kumpf stepped to the service line and put the match out of reach with eight straight points, three of them aces.
The second game was never close, Northview taking leads of 16-5 and 18-6. The Eagles rallied with five straight points, only to see the Knights answer with six in a row.
And if the point hadn’t been made by that time, Morris served nine straight points in the third game to open an 18-5 bulge.
All according to plan, the coach said.
“We had good passing, big hits and we served very well,” coach McDonald pointed out. “Our defense was phenomenal; we got so many touches [at the net] and were able to transition those into offense.”
“I think we played well,” summarized setter Taylor Hess. “It took a lot of hard work.”
Hess realizes, she said, that her team situation is a good one.
“My hitters are fantastic,” she said. “We even have options in the back row ... and Mac [coach McDonald] really works with us and tells us what we can do to throw the other team off.”
Morris said after the championship match that her only regret was being unable to celebrate it with longtime teammate Audrey Clark. The Northview libero had a family obligation that forced her to miss the night game.
“I cannot tell you how amazing she is, and it’s sad we’re not able to share this moment,” Morris said of her fellow senior.
“We’ve been planning for [Clark’s absence],” coach McDonald said. Audrey and Ashley [Heck] have been alternating at libero all year.”
The Knights are on the road at Shelbyville for Tuesday’s regional match, but will take time to enjoy their first sectional championship in four years.
“An awesome day,” the coach said.
“I’m not gonna sleep tonight; I don’t know about the other girls,” Morris promised, “but it’s back in the gym Monday.”
Northview 27 25 25
Edgewood 25 17 13
Highlights — For Northview, Taylor Hess had 29 assists, a dig, a kill and 2 aces; Kenzi Kumpf 10 kills, 2 digs, a block and an ace; Morgan Stearley 9 kills, 2 blocks and an ace; Shelbi Morris 8 kills, 2 digs, a block and an ace; Madison McDonald 4 kills, a block, a dig and 2 aces; Mikayla Rowan 4 blocks, 3 kills and an assist; Audrey Clark 6 digs; and Ashley Heck 2 assists and 2 digs.
Northview 25 25 25
Brown County 14 12 13
Highlights — For Northview, Hess had 28 assists, 7 digs, 3 kills, 6 points and 2 aces; Kumpf 5 kills, 4 digs, 22 points and 5 aces; McDonald 10 digs, 7 kills, 4 assists, a block, 7 points and 4 aces; Morris 11 kills, a block, a dig, an assist, 12 points and 3 aces; Stearley 9 kills, 3 blocks, a dig and a point; Heck 7 digs, 2 assists and 2 points; and Lindsey Potter a dig.
For Brown County, which advanced to the championship game with a 3-1 win over Owen Valley earlier in the day, Brianna Harper had 16 assists, 3 points and an ace; Lizzie Jackson 8 kills and a point; Maddison Taylor an assist, 5 points and 3 aces; Morgan Wray 5 kills; Carly Williams 4 kills and a block; Alaina Glidden 3 kills and a block; Emily Brady 2 assists and 2 points; Cheyenne Ellis an assist and 2 points; Harley Rogers 2 points and an ace; and Tanner Chapman a kill.
Next — Northview (33-3, setting a school record for wins in the Edgewood game) plays Tuesday against host Shelbyville (15-18) Brown County finished 21-7.