GRAND ISLAND — Grand Island Central Catholic got a test from Kearney Catholic Tuesday.
But just like their previous 18 matches, the Class C1 No. 3-rated Crusaders passed that test. They stayed undefeated after defeating the No. 2 Stars 25-23, 25-20, 20-25, 20-25, 15-10.
GICC coach Sharon Zavala thought it would be a tough match with the Stars, who have beaten Class B No. 3 Waverly, No. 7 Bennington and No. 8 Aurora.
“It was a good test for the girls, but we didn’t know how good we really are. We played some good teams, but not like the teams that Kearney Catholic has played,” Zavala said. “I’m happy to see the kids stay together and pull it together. It was a grind.”
The Crusaders had to deal with the attack of Ashley Keck, who had a match-high 35 kills and also had six ace serves.
But the Stars were dealing with a few injuries and played a lot of young kids. Setter Sydney Conner was involved in a car-train accident last Wednesday, and Jenna Kruse went down with an ankle injury during the match.
“We had a whole new nucleus on the floor. We had some kids come in and step up for us. We had some new faces that dealt with this experience fairly well,” KCHS coach Kris Conner said.
GICC won a back-and-forth first set and overcame a 9-4 KCHS lead in the second set. Keck powered the Stars with 18 kills in the third and fourth sets to force a deciding fifth set.
“Ashley really stepped it up and kept it positive out there on the court for us,” Conner said. “She hits the ball from so many angles that she makes it hard for the block because she can hit both left and right and can hit out of the back row too.”
The Crusaders got on the attack right away in the fifth set as Gracie Woods and Alyssa Wilson helped them to an early 4-1 lead. But Keck had a kill and two ace serves to give the Stars a 7-6 lead.
After a KCHS error tied it up, setter Carolyn Maser gave the Crusaders the lead with a kill, then Woods responded with back-to-back kills for a 10-7 lead as they slowly pulled away for the win.
Woods had four of her team-high 15 kills in the fifth set.
“I thought we were going to get ourselves in a little bit of trouble there, but the girls bounced back. We needed Gracie to have a strong fifth because when Keck went to the back row, she’s in the front and we need Carolyn to set her in the front. We had to feed her,” Zavala said.
Setter Callie Squiers dished off 53 assists for the Stars, while Aibrey Mandernach added 15 kills.
Conner said she felt the Stars weren’t aggressive enough in the fifth set.
“I thought there were a few more plays where we should have been aggressive. We just went too safe. We’re young, but we need to be more aggressive,” Conner said. “As for the match, we had a lot of young kids out there, but they did a great job of fighting back after getting down 2-0.”