PLYMOUTH — The Red Slam continued rolling at Plymouth Thursday night.
NorthWood volleyball topped the host Pilgrims in three sets, 25-16, 27-25, 25-14, to earn an eighth straight win and move to 2-0 in the Northern Lakes Conference.
“It’s exciting. It is so hard to come down and play Plymouth, and we always play them early and, man, that is always a tough game. Warsaw and Memorial are both really tough; Northridge is always tough. Our conference is kind of a gauntlet, but getting this game with this group of kids, I love it because I think it will just build what they believe they can do,” said NorthWood head coach Hilary Laidig.
After a nip-tuck start to Thursday’s match at The Rock, NorthWood finally got some separation at the end of the first set with a 9-1 spurt that included a 4-0 Maddy Payne service run to close out what had ultimately become a lopsided first game, 25-16. But after trailing most of the second set, Plymouth came battling back, holding off four straight game points as part of a larger 6-0 run to move a point away from taking the game at 25-24. Unfazed, however, the Panthers closed out the extended set with a 3-0 run that included two straight kills by Kate Rulli, taking most of the fight out of the Pilgrims, who trailed the entire third set on the way to the most remote margin of the night.
“I think that fed into us being more confident and them being a little more careful,” said Laidig of the extended second-set win. “I think you saw some errors from some of their players in that third set that weren’t there earlier. But we took advantage of it. Our girls — especially Kate Rulli in that set — really just slammed it. She was really getting after it there, and we served aggressive in that third set too — Macy (Lengacher) and Kendall (Miller) both got on a long run.”
The Red Slam showcased a balanced offensive effort that saw 14 kills from Payne and seven apiece by fellow senior middle hitter Rulli and junior outside hitter Ali Knepp as senior setter Caroline Mullett tallied 39 assists for the night.
“So balanced. Maddy Payne is obviously our heavy hitter, but these other girls have come a long way from our first game of the year until right now and are just hitting at a much higher percentage. And any of them can get kills, which is hard for a defense to deal with,” Laidig said.
Payne also finished the night with two blocks alongside junior hitter Alea Minnich, while Lengacher and Miller served up a trio of aces each. Miller led the defense with 22 digs, but the team registered 74 digs as a whole in Plymouth.
“Our defense gets their hands on a lot of balls, so I think it allows our offense — if it’s not a great set where they feel comfortable swinging at it — they can put it over the net and know that our defense is going to play it back up,” explained Laidig. “So I don’t think they feel that pressure, and they can wait for the right set to get after it.”
NorthWood’s JV fell 25-24, 19-25-15-8 at Plymouth Thursday, however. Annika Bennett led the attack with six kills, while Jadyn Gessinger passed out 12 assists. Halle DeMien and Enna Kaser served two aces each, and Tori Mullett finished with 11 digs.
NorthWood’s varsity improved to 12-3 overall and 2-0 in the conference. The Panthers will play in the Concord Invitational Saturday, beginning at 8:30 a.m.