There have been times in practice when Patricia Haggerty has been pleasantly surprised at how well her Northern Nash squad can play.
Then there have been other times in which the team scrambles and looks wayward.
Both are the signs of a team in the improvement stage, though Haggerty saw more of the former Thursday.
Northern Nash held off a late-charging Southern Nash to obtain a 3-1 victory at Northern Nash High School, the Knights’ first Big East Conference win of the season.
“I’ve learned that we still have got a lot of improving to do,” Haggerty said. “We do. They can come in practice and play phenomenal, then we get in a match and it’s like we forget who’s supposed to be where sometimes. There’s always room for improvement.”
The first and fourth sets both featured back-and-forth play in which a few mistakes and good timing were the difference.
Luckily for the Knights (4-4, 1-1 Big East), they earned the right breaks at the right time s and won both of them, 26-24.
Northern Nash began to roll in the second set, racing out to a 13-1 lead before letting Southern Nash (1-7, 0-2) claw back to within two before holding on to win.
The Knights believe they are at their best when they are playing as a unit, something that was present for parts of Thursday.
“We just came together as a team, and when we come together as a team, it’s just like we can’t be beat,” said Northern Nash outside hitter Alexus Hill, who led the match with 11 kills. “When you have a team that’s close like that, there’s nothing that can break that bond.”
With the luxury of a 2-0 lead, Haggerty put in many of the Knights’ reserves for the third set. She knew it would be a risk, and the Ladybirds made Northern Nash pay for it, cruising to a 25-13 victory.
Southern Nash continued to hang with Northern Nash even after the Knights re-entered their starters, yet both sides struggled to keep possession in the decisive fourth set.
Each time it looked as if one team might build a lead – both squads held brief three-point advantages – the other side rallied to bring it closer. In all, there were 15 ties in the third set.
Southern Nash served with a chance to win the set only for Northern Nash to rally for three straight points and a match-sealing victory.
“Everybody was toe-to-toe, and it was who made the least mistakes,” Southern Nash coach Kandar Artis said. “We made a few more mistakes than they did.”
Even though the timing was right for Northern Nash, the Knights knew how close the margin was in the two games that made the difference.
“I don’t know if everything went right or luck was on our side,” Haggerty said, “Because it could have gone either way.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or firstname.lastname@example.org