With a limited number of home games this season, the North Platte volleyball team is determined to make the most of each one. On Thursday, the Bulldogs fed off the energy of a boisterous crowd at the Dawg House, winning their home opener over Class B No. 8 Grand Island Northwest 25-19, 25-15, 22-25, 25-20.
First-year Bulldogs head coach Clancy Hammond made her regular-season home debut, and credited the home faithful for their support.
"I actually thought about that during the first couple sets," Hammond said. "We only get three home games this whole season, but what an advantage a home crowd can give you. I love hearing the band play and I hope they realize the contribution they make. They, along with the crowd really are like the seventh player out there."
Set 1: North Platte (4-6) started fast, jumping out to a 5-0 advantage, but Northwest (3-3) answered by tying the score at 5-5 and again at 10-10. Later in the set, the Bulldogs clung to a 16-15 advantage before back-to-back kills by freshman Carly Purdy gave North Platte an 18-15 lead, prompting a Northwest timeout.
North Platte slammed the door shut, getting two consecutive points on assists by junior Peyton Neff and kills from senior Chakera Hough. Junior McKenna made it official with an emphatic kill for set-point for the Bulldogs.
Set 2: Again, North Platte took command early, taking a 17-6 lead on an ace from Purdy. A Purdy kill later extended North Platte’s lead to 24-15, and a block-kill from senior Aubyrne McClintock gave her team a 2-0 lead in the match.
Purdy has continued to progress as a freshman, and can give the Bulldogs an added boost with both her play and attitude, according to Hammond.
"She’s getting stronger every day. It’s not just how well she’s hitting the ball, but how mentally strong she’s becoming," Hammond said. "When she’s on, she brings the whole team up. We kind of joke that if we can get Carly laughing and excited, that means we’re working hard together as a team. She’s a real emotional motivator for the rest of the team."
Set 3: This time Northwest got off to a slim lead to start the set at 10-9.
North Platte fought back, taking an 11-10 advantage on a kill from senior Kelsey Salazar-Allen. Northwest proceeded to use a 6-2 run to take a lead they’d never relinquish. Despite North Platte tying the score at 16-16 and 22-22, Northwest rattled off the final three point, cutting North Platte’s match lead to 2-1.
Set 4: Not wanting to let Northwest grab momentum, North Platte starting the set by scoring the first six points.
Later in the set, a Northwest error, followed by an ace by Hough broke a 16-16 tie and gave the Bulldogs the lead for good.
Leading 24-20, a North Platte’s Kamryn Hughes and Salazar-Allen stuffed a kill attempt by Northwest to end the game.
For Hammond, her team’s tenacity to not let Northwest back into the match was an encouraging sign.
"We talked about how momentum can swing either way and how fast it can turn," she said. "(Northwest) had the momentum after the third set, but we came back strong in the fourth set. It was important that we stayed positive and focused."
After starting the season 0-4, North Platte has now won four of its last six games, including two straight. The Bulldogs hit the road yet again on Saturday when they’ll head east to play in the Kearney High Invitational.
Grand Island Northwest (3-3) 19 15 25 20 — 1
North Platte (4-6) 25 25 22 25 — 3