VIRGINIA- The North Woods volleyball season came to an abrupt end last week in the 7A sectional semifinals at Rock Ridge High School when the Floodwood Polar Bears came storming back from a 2-0 set …
VIRGINIA- The North Woods volleyball season came to an abrupt end last week in the 7A sectional semifinals at Rock Ridge High School when the Floodwood Polar Bears came storming back from a 2-0 set deficit to defeat the Grizzlies 3-2 and move on to the sectional finals.
The Grizzlies knew they’d have their hands full in this match, as the Polar Bears won their regular season match at North Woods 3-2.
The Grizzlies wasted no time taking control from an opening service ace by Tori Olson. North Woods quickly zoomed to a 7-1 lead, with Lauren Burnett getting the Grizzlies second ace of the set in a 5-0 run. But the Grizzlies leveled their biggest blow of the set after Madison Dantes scored on a well placed pop over the net. With Dantes serving, the Grizzlies went from an 8-6 lead to 17-6, with setter Talise Goodsky scoring on a couple of quick flips and a block as North Woods had the Polar Bears completely out of sync. North Woods closed out a dominant performance with an 8-3 run to win the first set 25-10.
The Grizzlies played from behind in the first part of the second set, but used kills by Addy Hartway and Isabel Pascuzzi to forge multiple ties. With Hartway serving at 14-14, North Woods reeling off six consecutive points that included kills by Pascuzzi and River Cheney to take a 20-14 lead. Cheney picked up the set winner on a kill for a 25-17 win and a 2-0 lead in the match.
North Woods got off to a quick 5-1 lead in the third, but Floodwood came back to make it a slugfest. The Polar Bears took the lead for good at 11-10 and led by as many as eight before the Grizzlies pulled back to within 23-20. But a North Woods block sailed wide and Floodwood’s Logan Hart gave the Polar Bears their first win of the night, 25-20, with an ace.
Like the Grizzlies in the first set, the Polar Bears in the fourth looked like they might run away at the outset, forcing North Woods Head Coach Kandi Olson to call timeout at 8-2. A Floodwood error at 11-3 gave the ball back to the Grizzlies, and with Hartway getting a big block and a pair of Pascuzzi kills North Woods was right back into it trailing just 11-9. Another Floodwood run put the Polar Bears up 18-11, but North Woods clawed back to a 20-20 tie on smart scores by Burnett and Goodsky. But the Grizzlies didn’t have enough left in the tank to complete the drive, with Floodwood taking a 25-21 win to even the match 2-2.
The Polar Bears looked confident coming back out on the floor for the fifth set, and Floodwood’s Kenzie Kiminiski, the team’s big hitter, instead used deception to pop over three quick shots to holes in the Grizzlies defense for scores. North Woods took a time out trailing 7-4, then had to take another with Floodwood forging a 10-5 advantage. North Woods was down 14-9 when Hartway staved off elimination with a block on Kiminiski, and after Floodwood mishandled a set Pazcuzzi slammed a kill to get the Grizzlies within two, 14-12. But the Grizzlies dreams of reaching the sectional final went up in smoke when Floodwood angled a shot across the front of the North Woods defense that fell just inside the opposite sideline for 15-12 win and comeback match victory.
Olson commented on the play of both squads after the match.
“We practiced so well this week and we came out so hot,” Olson said. “That’s exactly what I was expecting out of them, but we had to expect Floodwood was going to pour on the steam and fight for their lives, and they came back at us hard in that third game. But I have to give props to my kids because they just kept fighting hard throughout, and a I feel like they did a great job.”
Olson noted that it was tough for the Grizzlies to counter Floodwood’s momentum as the match progressed.
“We had a lot of times where Floodwood had runs of a few points and it was really a battle to get those points back,” Olson said. “But once we realized we could do it we were able to pull back up again.”
Olson agreed that Floodwood got better at finding holes in the Grizzlies defense.
“I feel like it was probably a little bit of us being a little tight and tense because we really knew we were going to have to pour it on them, and them just looking at things and seeing where our holes were.”
North Woods finished the season with a record of 20-6 and was rated the 26th best team in Class A out of 152 schools. It was the best season for a Grizzlies squad since finishing 24-4 in 2018.
“Honestly, from the beginning to the end of the season they grew so much,” Olson said. “Even at the end here, I felt like the growth was exponential. They were just learning new things and working hard every day and coming out with a better and better attitude every day to want to go as far as they could.”