GRAND ISLAND - After a slow start, momentum was flirting with Kearney Catholic.
After seeing Class C-2No. 2 Grand Island Central Catholic easily take the first set, the Stars battled back from a six-point deficit to take the lead in the second. In fact, Kearney Catholic had a chance to take the set.
But the Crusaders fought off five set points to win the set and kept momentum for the rest of the match to take a 25-12, 31-29, 25-18 victory over the Stars Tuesday at Central Catholic High School.
GICC coach Sharon Zavala brought in Elli Steenson during the final stages of the second set and she came through with an ace block at set point.
“Elli did the job for us. It’s always nice to see senior make a big play like that and it helps motivate the rest of the team,” Zavala said. “That was exciting for the girls to win a set like that and the momentum went back to us a little bit.”
Kearney Catholic coach Kris Conner said the Stars had their chances.
“I thought we had it there a couple of times but we just couldn’t capitalize there,” she said. “I thought we played a little safe at times and you just can’t do that against a team like that. In big games, you need to stay aggressive.”
At first, GICC could almost do no wrong in the opening set while jumping out to an 18-3 lead. The Crusaders had 12 kills in the opening set, and Kearney Catholic had seven hitting errors to help GICC cruise.
Conner took her players out into the hallway after the first set to give them a talking to.
“We had a lot of unforced errors in that first set,” Conner said. “It really wasn’t pretty. I think the girls were embarrassed with how they played in the first set. I thought we did a much better job later on.”
That they did, thanks to Sarah Clinch, who had two blocks and three kills to help the Stars cut an 18-12 deficit to one at 19-18. Then Ashley Kuck, who led the Stars with 11 kills, took charge with four to give Kearney Catholic a 22-21 lead.
Later a GICC error gave the Stars set point at 24-22. But an Evan Glade kill and a Kearney Catholic error evened the match.
The teams took turns with the lead as an Allison Kalvoda kill gave the Crusaders a 28-27 lead. But Kuck and Bailey Spangler had back-to-back kills to give KC its fifth chance. However, two straight Star errors gave GICC the 30-29 lead to set up Steenson’s block.
The Crusaders kept momentum in getting out to a 9-3 lead, which included two ace serves from Kate McFarland and another one from Courtney Toner and slowly pulled away to the win.
Avery Kalvoda led the Crusaders with 12 kills, including at match point, while sister Allison chipped in 11. Katie Maser had 36 assists and McFarland led the defense with 18 digs.
Eight players had kills for the Crusaders, which pleased Zavala.
“We need to use a lot of different kids,” she said. “We don’t have kids that are six-rotation players but I have kids who are good at what they do. We just mesh well together and try to put the best team together that we can.”
GICC hosts Northwest on Thursday. Zavala said she feels the Crusaders need to play a little better against the Vikings.
“We made a lot of errors tonight that came out of out-of-system balls. We need to clean that up,” she said. “Northwest has been doing a nice job this season so we’ll need to be ready to play.”