It’s not always easy being the number one seed.
In two playoff games this week, the top seed in 1A volleyball, North Douglas, defeated Lowell 3-1 and just scraped by Griswold in a five set thriller to advance to the quarterfinals.
Last Wednesday, the Warriors hosted Lowell in the first round of the playoffs. While ranked number one, because North Douglas did not win their league tournament, they did not get a first-round bye.
In the first set, it was North Douglas up 11-10 when head coach Anne Campbell, from the sideline, told the team “we need a run.” The Warriors then rattled off 11 straight points and took the set 25-11.
In the second set, the Warriors were up 18-9 but after multiple errors by North Douglas, Lowell put together a 11-3 run to get within a point. North Douglas finished off the set to get the 25-21 victory but buoyed by their play in the second set, the Devils were able to put together a third set victory at 25-22.
“In the third set we kind of went out, we said we were going to execute and we went out there and I think we overlooked what was really going to happen and we started making mental errors,” said North Douglas hitter Ariana Helgren who finished the match with a team-high 17 kills. “Then we kind of figured it out like these are easy things to fix and just cleaned up our mental errors. We didn’t pull it out but in the fourth game we figured it out.”
It was all Warriors in the fourth game as they showed why they are the number one team in the state and rolled to a 25-7 victory to take the match.
“I feel really confident because having the kind of mistakes we had in today’s game kind of showed us that we’re in the state playoffs now, so we don’t have a lot of room for those little menial errors,” said Helgren.
Campbell noted that the team can build off what they did in Wednesday’s match.
“We’re very inexperienced and we’ve played like a team that has experience but there are times when that inexperience comes out and there’s a little bit of a slip there and whether hopefully we don’t let it go long enough that we dig a hole that we can’t get out of,” she said.
The win set them up to face sixteenth ranked Griswold at home in the second round.
It was the Grizzlies that came out strong in the opening set as they were able to counter each North Douglas attack and they went up 11-4. But as they have done all year, the Warriors countered and worked their way back. This time they worked through North Douglas’ Nicki Derrick’s serve. Derrick ended the match with six aces and the Grizzlies could not set up their offense when she was on the attack. A 15-2 run put the Warriors up and they finished the set with a 25-20 victory.
The Warriors again looked on their best form in the second set as they took the game 25-14 to be a set away from heading to Redmond for the quarterfinals.
But before North Douglas could seal the deal, the Grizzlies bounced back. In the third set, the Grizzlies took the game 25-20. And in the fourth set they opened up a 13-4 lead and looked to cruise to a fifth set until it was the Warriors who fought back. Powered by Helgren and Abby Whipple, the Warriors tied the game up at 18.
Helgren finished with 27 kills and 30 digs and Whipple added 17 kills and 24 digs.
Griswold responded to the rally and with the assistance of a service error and spikes into the net, the Grizzlies won the set 27-25 to set up a fifth and final set.
With five quick Helgren kills the Warriors were up 10-4 in the fifth set. The Grizzlies came back and the match was tied at 14. Each team then had service errors and then the Warriors were able to rally to a 17-15 win to take the match.
“I’m proud of the way that they battled because we really had… some ups and downs and you know they really battled back and they had this kind of late game, late set battle in the fourth set and we lost it. So when Griswold got right back into the game in the fifth, I was a little bit worried,” said Campbell.
“A match like this better prepares us to play at state… Typically a number one seed has an easy road in. But when you play a team from the East you never know. They’re a different kind of volleyball over there, you don’t see them during the season and the rankings are skewed a lot of times,” she said.
With the victory, the Warriors will now head to the quarterfinals.
“I’m just thrilled because like I feel like a lot of people didn’t really think you know like wow they lost a bunch of seniors, they’re not going to make it. And there was definitely a lot of vibes going there. And we just came out today wanting to prove everyone wrong. I mean, it took awhile but we still proved them wrong and I couldn’t be more proud of my team.
North Douglas will face Joseph in their next match on Friday at 1:15 p.m. North Douglas lost to Joseph 2-1 in August at the 1A Season Preview tournament.