Carly Purdy prepares to spike a ball during North Platte’s 3-0 loss to Elkhorn South on Wednesday at the NSAA state volleyball tournament in Lincoln.
North Platte didn’t have an answer for Rylee Gray. Gray, the tallest girl on the court, was dangerous on both offense and defense.
Every time the Bulldogs attacked her side of the net, she either got a hand on the ball or smacked it back down for a point. On offense, her height provided an advantage as she collected a game-high 18 kills.
Even her sub, Mia Mroczek, was taller than the Bulldogs and provided no relief with three kills and two solo blocks.
Height made a difference in the opening round of the Class A NSAA State Volleyball Tournament Wednesday in Lincoln as Elkhorn South defeated North Platte 25-17, 25-14, 25-16.
“Hard to simulate in practice hitting against a 6-foot-4 blocker,” North Platte coach Clancy Hammond said. “And then you’re hoping to take advantage when she’s out, but the 6-foot-2 blocker is in there when she’s out. They’re a great team. I think the girls competed really well tonight.”
That height was evident on the first point of the first set when Gray blocked a North Platte attack attempt. Aces from Katherine Galligan and Madeline Henry and a kill from Madison Woodin put Elkhorn South ahead 4-1 early.
Both teams traded points until they hit 10-5 after Kylie Weeks recorded her first kill. She finished with 16 kills, the second-highest in the game.
“Our play tonight was so much better than what we did last week against Bellevue West,” Hammond said. “Playing against a much tougher team even, the girls played a whole lot harder.”
The Storm opened the second set with five consecutive points with kills from Gray, Weeks and Annie Millard that forced Hammond to take an early timeout. Harvey, who finished the game with nine kills, put North Platte on the board again following the break, but both teams continued to trade points.
North Platte couldn’t really get any momentum going in the second set, as any point was met with two or three Elkhorn South points.
The Bulldogs ended the set with three straight points, including a kill from McKenna Little and an ace from Peyton Neff, but couldn’t mount a comeback.
North Platte opened the third set with back-to-back points off a kill from Harvey and an ace from Skyler Sudbeck, but Elkhorn South took the lead off a 5-0 run. The Storm then pushed out to a 14-7 lead.
That was when North Platte started picking up some momentum. Carly Purdy picked up a kill and an ace during a four point stretch to pull the Bulldogs within four. Purdy finished with a team-high 11 kills.
“Ending our season in a match like that far exceeded any of the expectations we had to begin the season with,” Hammond said. “Just to be playing in a state tournament in a year we didn’t know how many games we’d get to play was awesome.”