NHC volleyball powers Bellmont and Carroll collided on the court at the Teepee Thursday night in a match that, despite the fact it was only the third of seven conference matches of the year for the two teams, was one that will more than likely determine the championship of the NHC.
That title, which has been owned by Bellmont for nearly a decade, will once again likely reside with the Squaws as they polished off the Chargers in three straight games 25-21, 25-18, 25-22 in a match that was anything but easy for either team.
The Squaws, now 15-4 on the year and 3-0 in the NHC, were reminded in a pre-game meeting by Coach Craig Krull that "the last time we lost a match on our home court was exactly six years ago tonight and that was to Carroll." The Carroll-Bellmont match has turned into a battle royale the last couple of years with the Squaws surviving a five-game match last year at Carroll to give them a 7-0 NHC mark while Carroll finished 6-1, records both teams will likely repeat this year.
Krull noted, "In a big match like this we had to take it to the next step. Nothing was going to come easy. It was a high intensity evening. The freshman match was intense, the JV match was intense. There was no reason to expect the varsity match to be any different."
And it wasn't.
Bellmont threatened to run away early in the first game jumping out to an 8-2 lead before the Chargers got back to a 13-11 game on a Jenna Spadafora kill. The Squaws never trailed in the first round and again tried to put Carroll away by posting a 7-0 run for a 23-13 lead. Carroll got four straight forcing Krull to call a time out. The final two points Bellmont scored in the match came on serves plunked into the net.
Holly Hankenson delivered on offense early for Bellmont with five of her game-high 12 kills in the first game but Carroll, despite having an 11-10 edge in kills in the game, was plagued by six net foul or net serve calls.
The second game started out close with six early ties, the last being at 10-10. Carroll had led 10-8 at one point but Hankenson toed the service line for a 10-0 run that featured four kills by her twin sister Bailee and a back row kill by Holly.
Carroll coach Doug Helsom had seen enough and called time out with the Squaws up 18-10. Although the Chargers got back to within five at 23-18, two of the last three Bellmont points came on pretty back-handed tips by setter Steph Shoup who instead of setting the ball (she topped Bellmont with 28 assists on the night) caught Charger defenders napping with well-placed tips for kills.
Game three featured six ties, the last being a 19-19 score as Carroll had reversed a 16-11 BHS lead. Payton Schultz gave the Squaws a lead they wouldn't lose with a slam down followed by senior Melissa Mailand's kill. After a Squaw serving miscue, the Hankenson twins each delivered a kill for a 23-20 lead and a hitting error put the contest at game and match point. Two Carroll kills narrowed the gap but when Bailee Hankenson's shot was blocked out of bounds, Bellmont had escaped with the 25-22 victory.
"Bellmont is a very good team, hats off to them. They took us out of our system and what we wanted to do. When you have to play catch up against a good team like Bellmont, it's very difficult to do. They executed their game plan exactly like they wanted to and we didn't," Helsom noted after the game. "We'll just have to pick it up and refocus. We'll hope for 6-1 and second place in the conference and get ready for the post season."
Krull noted that even though managed to get a five or six point lead in the games, "We knew Carroll wasn't going to go away. We had to keep track of where Jenna (Spadafora) was on the floor because she's such a good player. I thought we made the little plays when we needed to and had a good, overall effort tonight."
Bellmont made it an all-Squaw night with victories at the JV and freshman level as well.
The reserve team, which remained undefeated at 16-0, captured a 25-15, 25-21 match with Taylor Rhymer and Olivia Fuelling both getting five kills while Autumn Konkle had eight digs and seven assists. Madalyn Mann added seven assists, two digs and kills and one ace while Natalie Busse had two aces, two digs and an assist and kill. Jessah Okoniewski finished with three digs, Carley Williams had three digs, Audrey Schultz had four kills, Devon Schultz had four digs, and Emily Roman had one ace and dig.
The Squaw frosh team earned a 25-19, 25-16 decision lead by Amanda Hunter with 13 assists, six digs, three aces and two kills. Ali Shaffer had five kills and six digs, Rachel Salerno ended up with three kills and two digs, Dana Garcia had four digs and two assists, Kenzi Funk led the team in kills with six, and Sadie Alberson had three kills and two digs. Salerno, Shaffer, and Alberson also had one ace each.
Bellmont 25-25-25, Carroll 21-18-22
KILLS: (B) Mailand 2-9, Schultz 9-27, H. Hankenson 12-31, B. Hankenson 6-18, Hunter 1-1, Wilder 2-14, Shoup 2-4. (C) Spadafora 12-25, Weaver 9-18, Conser 2-11, Sordelet 1-6, Hansen 4-9, Mallers 0-7.
ASSISTS: (B) Shoup 28, B. Hankenson 3, Gutierrez 1, H. Hankenson 1. (C) Spadafora 13, Ortiz 14.
ACES: (B) Hunter 3, Schultz 1, H. Hankenson 1. (C) Ortiz 2, Weaver, 2.
DIGS: (B) Gutierrez 21, B. Hankenson 11, H. Hankenson 9, Hunter 4, Wilder 4, Schultz 3, Shoup 2. (C) James 14, Weaver 13, Spadafora 10, Yeager 5.
BLOCKS (solo-assisted): (B) Mailand 2-2, Schultz 0-2, B. Hankenson 1-3, Wilder 1-0, Shoup 0-1. (C) Spadafora 0-3, Weaver 1-2, Sordelet 0-2, Hansen 2-3.