That second real test for Terre Haute North’s unbeaten high school volleyball team? Still hasn’t happened, and won’t for at least another week.

Visiting Vincennes Lincoln was expected to provide the Patriots with their best challenge Thursday since their five-game win at Northview two weeks ago, but the Alices fell behind with Katie Behnke’s match-opening ace and never led, North winning 25-14, 25-10, 25-13.

Part of the reason could have been a Vincennes team with very little experience. Most of the reason was a pretty good performance by the home team.

“I told [the Patriots after the match] that top to bottom, start to finish this may have been the best we’ve played,” coach Kris Painter said afterward.

“We did everything well tonight. We’ve had a few spots [in previous matches] when we’ve let teams back in and not been able to shut the door.”

There were several reasons why the Patriots played well Thursday, and one of them was probably summed up by a post-match hallway conversation between North’s Mary Kate Etling and Breanne Jones of Vincennes, both of whom play for COA Volleyball Club in the summer. The gist of the talk was Etling’s conversion to defensive specialist.

Etling, North’s 6-foot middle hitter, had made her presence felt — literally, a few Vincennes defenders would testify — on the front row with a match-high 12 kills and six blocks. But the Patriots were also impeccable on defense Thursday, and Etling’s play in the back was a big part of that.

Her coach was not surprised.

“Mary Kate is a good passer,” Painter stressed. “Sometimes we stereotype, and when you’ve got a middle we automatically think she can’t pass. But Mary Kate can, and she gets to a lot of balls too, because she reads the other team’s hitters so well.”

As much as anything it may have been North’s defense that took the heart out of the visitors Thursday. Despite slow starts in each game, the Alices were able to sustain several long rallies — but cashed in on very few of them, because the Patriots, led by six digs from Lauren Isaacs and five by Etling, were keeping the ball in play themselves.

And offensively, there was no comparison between the two teams.

“We did play well defensively,” Painter agreed, “and I thought we spread things around well.”

Vincennes Lincoln 14 10 13

Terre Haute North 25 25 25

Highlights — For North, Laura Mauer had 27 assists, 4 kills, 3 digs, 11 points and 2 aces; Mary Kate Etling had 12 kills, 6 blocks, 5 digs, 2 assists, 5 points and 2 aces; Kristyn Moss had a dig, an assist, 15 points and 2 aces; Kelbie Drebes had 2 digs, 12 points and 2 aces; Katlyn Anderson had 6 kills, 4 digs, an assist, a point and an ace; Katie Behnke had 4 digs, 7 points and an ace; Sara Baugh had 6 blocks and 5 kills; Lauren Isaacs had 6 digs; Bri Hill had 5 kills; and Mikinzi Kiefer had a kill. For Vincennes, Jenna Prout had 7 assists, 4 kills and 3 points; Taylor Nash had 5 assists, a kill, 5 points and 2 aces; and Katie LaMarche had 6 kills and a block.

JV — North won 25-18, 25-22.

Next — North (5-0) plays next Thursday at Turkey Run.

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