DEARBORN, Mo. — Fresh off the end of a month-long winning streak, North Platte started out right in both sets of a KCI Conference matchup with East Buchanan. Panthers senior standout Katie Heese delivered an ace for the first point of each, and North Platte recorded nine total in a 25-17, 25-17 sweep of the Bulldogs on Thursday, Oct. 1 at North Platte High School. The strong service didn’t necessarily come as part of the plan, but after a three-set loss to KC Lutheran two days earlier snapped a 16-match win streak, the Panthers were fine with the results.
“My philosophy is I just want it in. Give me rainbows if that’s what it takes to get the ball in,” North Platte coach Scott McInnis said.
North Platte improved to 4-0 in KCI Conference play, putting them in solid position to win a second league title in three years.
Heese, a four-year contributor, again played a prominent role with nine kills, but her two aces to open the first set prompted an early East Buchanan timeout. The Bulldogs responded and took a 7-5 lead, but a 5-0 run from North Platte, which included an ace from Maddie Lee, put the Panthers up for good. Emmie Lee and Maddie Lee added another ace apiece down the stretch.
In the second set, North Platte didn’t trail after Heese and Emmie Lee hit aces to forge a 7-3 lead, forcing another timeout. The advantage hit 9-3 and then didn’t go past six until the Panthers closed out the match with the final three points in a row.
That leaves three KCI matches to go, among others, before the start of the postseason and the chase for a return to the state playoffs, first since 2000.
“It kind of woke us up,” Pike said of the recent loss, “and made us all realize it’s real and the games are dwindling.”
North Platte again showed off its balanced offense with Kailey Pike, a senior first-year starter, continuing her steady season at setter by dishing 14 assists. Those performances have been the norm during the early-season run that included just four three-set matches, only one a loss.
“Without Kailey, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do,” Heese said. “She takes the second ball every single time. I can always trust that she’s there.”
Added Pike: “If I’m in trouble, I almost always have a hitter in the right spot.”
West Platte 2, North Platte 1
The Bluejays rallied to win the third meeting between the rivals this season during a nonconference triangular Monday, Oct. 5 in Leavenworth, Kan.
In the final two sets, West Platte (12-10-1) recorded 13 of its 16 total aces in a 22-25, 25-18, 27-25 victory. Both teams swept Immaculata, which hosted the matches.
Jordan Schultz and Gretchen Hiatt led an attack that featured five players with at least three kills for West Platte. Megan Kottman dished out 33 assists, at least 10 in each set. Hiatt added four blocks, one back Ciara Davies’ team-high five.
Schultz played for the second time since coming back from a high ankle sprain suffered last month.
“Now that she’s back, it’s like the missing piece of our puzzle has been returned,” West Platte first-year coach Alysa Pfleiderer said. “We are playing as a cohesive unit. The girls wanted this win badly; I wanted this win. We worked hard to prepare and when the time came the girls fought hard for their victory.”
Schultz recorded one ace in each of the final two sets. Sadie Kleman, West Platte’s senior libero, finished with five aces — three in the second set and two in the clincher. Hiatt, Davies and Patti Callahan all contributed three apiece in the service barrage.
Heese led North Platte with nine kills, while Gerling added seven to go with a team-high three blocks. Pike recorded 21 assists.
North Platte (19-3) continues to hold a 2-1 advantage so far this season after beating the Bluejays twice on the way to the KCI Conference Tournament championship earlier this season. The league matchup between the two is slated for Tuesday, Oct. 13.
West Platte was 3-1 in KCI play entering a Tuesday, Oct. 7 matchup with Lawson — the first of three straight conference games to close the season.
KC Lutheran 2, North Platte 1
The Panthers’ lengthy win streak came to an end after they dropped the final two sets Tuesday, Sept. 29 in Dearborn, Mo.
North Platte took the first set 25-22 but lost 25-18 and 25-12 despite 13 kills for Heese and 13 digs from Maddie Lee. The Panthers’ 16-match winning streak prior to the loss dated to Aug. 27 in a sweep at LeBlond.
North Platte and Lutheran should be two of the top seeds in the seven-team Class 1 District 15 field, along with Northland Christian (18-3) — a small parochial school in Platte County just recently granted membership to the Missouri State High School Activities Association.
West Platte 2, Plattsburg 0
Schultz returned from a severely sprained ankle, recording team-highs of seven kills and five aces Thursday, Oct. 1 in Plattsburg, Mo.
A star outside hitter, Schultz injured herself last month during a win against East Buchanan. West Platte went 3-6-1 in her absence, including an 0-2-2 showing at last week’s LeBlond Invitational. The Bluejays also lost in a sweep to LeBlond on Tuesday, Sept. 29.
The return to KCI play coincided with Schultz’s return.
Nealie Niemeier added five kills, and Kottman totaled 20 assists in the 25-21, 25-19 win. Callahan matched Schultz with five aces to go with a team-high seven digs.