COLUMBUS - The Lady Wildcats volleyball season ended one game short of the state tournament, losing to Diller-Odell in the District finals on Saturday.
The Lady Griffons won 25-21 24-26 25-14 25-18, and Hartington-Newcastle played a very strong game in the losing effort.
The Lady Cats eased any pregame worries with a hot start in the first set that forced Diller-Odell to call a timeout down 6-2 early. The timeout helped D-O readjust though and soon awakened the strong play at the net that has defined the Lady Griffons.
HNS head coach Leigh Haselhorst said the girls started strong, despite it being one of the team’s biggest obstacles this year.
“That is always something we have struggled with, is starting strong. If we started strong I really thought we were unbeatable and so once we had that I knew the girls were calm and ready to go.”
HNS fell in the first set, but the confidence the Lady Wildcats found, knowing they could play with this Diller-Odell team carried into the second. It was a back and forth battle between both sides, with the Lady Griffons battling back to force extra points but Hartington-Newcastle would take the set to tie it at one each.
The match was played in the new gymnasium of the Columbus High Discoverers, and it quickly sounded like a playoff atmosphere as both sides were roaring to start the third set.
“It was really fun,” said Haselhorst. “I explained that to the girls after the game that even at the state tournament you go to play in Lincoln East and their gym isn’t even this big. So it was a really cool atmosphere and although we didn’t get to where we wanted to, it was a good experience for them.”
HNS would fall into a slump in the last two sets though as communication became a factor at points in the loud gym. Block errors also kept coming for HNS as players were in position for a block but the ball would deflect errantly out of play or to an empty spot of the court.
After the fourth set as the two teams shook hands, two very different emotions could be seen by both teams, jubilance, and devastation.
“We wanted to make it at least this far and we did make it,” said senior Belle Harms with tears in her eyes but a smile on her face. “It is not how we wanted it to turn out but I am so proud of everyone. They really stepped up.”
Haselhorst had tremendous gratitude toward her five seniors after the game, saying they have played a huge role in building up this HNS program.
“I just think this year was a good program building year because the success we had is going to carry over. These younger girls, whether they are in elementary or junior high, see that and see how fun it was to be a part of these bigger games.”
Harms agreed, saying there has been a special connection between the team and those girls looking up to the high schoolers.
“I think it is really good for the program because there are so many little girls that look up to us, and enjoy watching us, and we enjoy helping them out at school. They love us and we love them and I think there is just a really positive attitude for the program.”
Hartington-Newcastle finished with the most wins in program history, going 25-6 this season. Diller-Odell advanced to the state tournament with the win. The Lady Griffons will the 6 seed and face Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family on Thursday evening in the first round of the three-day tournament.
HNS 21 26 14 18
D-O 25 24 25 25
Hartington-Newcastle - Kayden Jueden, 20; Belle Harms, 9; Abbe Morten, 6; Liby Lange, 3; Autumn Lammers, 1.
Hartington-Newcastle - Liby Lange, 30.
Hartington-Newcastle - Autumn Lammers, 3; Abbe Morten, 1; Keanna Korth, 1.
Hartington-Newcastle - Belle Harms, 9; Evvie Krie, 1.
Hartington-Newcastle - Willa Scoville, 19; Abbe Morten, 13; Kayden Jueden, 9; Autumn Lammers, 5; Keanna Korth, 2; Liby Lange, 2; Belle Harms, 1.