Uncharacteristic mistakes haunted the Kellam girls volleyball team in Tuesday’s 3-1 (25-20, 23-25, 20-25, 19-25) home loss to Madison in the 6A state semifinals.
After the Knights displayed their typical all-around team ball in their first set win and took an 18-13 lead in their second set, they fell out of sorts. Service errors, unconverted tips and missed blocks allowed Madison to storm back and close the second set on a 12-5 run.
The Warhawks carried that momentum all the way through the final two frames, outscoring the Knights 50-39.
“We just didn’t get the job done,” Kellam coach Chuck Lewis said. “We were out of position, missing some easy plays, and they were smart enough to exploit it. I felt that we got a little bit out of system.”
Madison bounced back from its early set hiccup and took control of the game. The Warhawks’ dominant serving (13 aces) startled the Knights serve-receive group, causing forced errors, which led to tougher offensive sets for Kellam.
Madison’s versatile outside attack was essentially unchallenged at the net. Warhawks outside hitter Natale Zanellato wreaked havoc with a game-high 15 kills, and Jayne Carter’s 50-50 tip-or-swing approach led to 12 kills and a confused Knights defense.
“Their outside was doggone good at tooling the block,” Lewis said. “She did a really good job. Frustrating? Yeah, big time.”
Also frustrating for the Knights was their inability to sustain leads and keep momentum on their side of the net. Kellam’s uncharacteristically out-of-sync offense forced many hitters to either tip or simply two-hand volley the ball over the net. Madison’s cover defense handled most of the Knights’ tips and converted points on nearly every free ball opportunity. Warhawks setter Kendall Hall finished with a game-high 40 assists along with three aces and two kills.
The Knights opened a 12-8 lead in the fourth set before Madison tied it with a 4-0 run. The Knights answered with a 15-13 lead, and the Warhawks combated with a 3-0 run for a 16-15 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“Everybody gets a little tight, that’s just human nature,” Lewis said. “Trying to find that place to where you can relax and play your game is difficult when you’re getting pressed.”
Kellam setter Lauren Baumgardner finished with 33 assists and two aces. Knights middle hitters Maddy Trypuc (14 kills) and Tori Morris (10 kills) carried the offense. Outside hitter Katie Piper had seven kills, while Allison Clark added five.
Knights libero Savannah Marshall’s defensive performance (24 digs) kept the Knights fighting in all sets. The junior standout was all over the floor, even adding four assists, two aces and one kill.
“She’s tough,” Lewis said of Marshall. “She just gets better and better every match.”
The season-ending loss snapped a 17-game winning streak that had fueled the Knights’ run to a final-four state appearance.
“It was a great season,” Lewis said. “Nothing to be ashamed of. Keep our heads up. I think we’re going to be particularly hungry when it comes back around.”