After Northern Nash was able to scrape together a win in the first set, the Knights were encouraged to be ahead, 1-0, despite playing in spurts.
Once its form came around, Northern Nash figured it would have enough to slide past Wilson Hunt.
Only the cohesiveness never came around for the Knights, whose sporadic periods of positive play were not enough in a five-set loss to the Warriors.
“For us as a team, there were a lot of great moments for us to get through tough times, but it just wasn’t enough,” Northern Nash setter Claire Fleming said. “Sometimes you have to take the loss and move on.”
The Knights (4-4, 0-1 Big East Conference) made more service errors Tuesday than they had in any game in 2012 and were kept on their heels by Hunt middle hitter Kiana Ballard.
Despite the errors and the 6-foot-2 Ballard, Northern Nash nearly won anyway.
“Of course, I can’t take anything away from Hunt. They played awesome,” Northern Nash coach Patricia Haggerty said. “(Hunt) got a few more lucky punches than we did. When No. 15 (Ballard) is on, she’s on.”
Camille Branch led the Knights with nine kills, while Deja Lewis added seven and Alexus Hill had six.
Fleming, in what has become par for the course, recorded 16 assists.
Haggerty said she has always had the team practice on Labor Day, but did not this year. Despite the Knights hitting before Tuesday’s match, there was never a crispness to the their offense.
“I think we were a little off, and I contribute that to us not practicing (Monday),” Haggerty said.
The Knights took a 1-0 lead in a first set that saw the score tied nine separate times. With Northern Nash leading, 23-22, Branch notched a kill and Hill earned an assist to earn the victory, setting up a wild second set.
A back-and-forth set saw the Knights pull ahead and go on the verge of taking a 2-0 lead, but the Warriors (1-0 Big East) rallied for four straight points to win the set, 25-23.
“It’s always a roller coaster,” Haggerty said. “Momentum’s on one side, then it’s on the other. You just hope you’re the one that comes out on top.”
The Knights weren’t fazed by the close loss, taking a fast 10-5 lead to begin the third set. From there, though, the Warriors controlled the proceedings.
Twice in the set Hunt won five consecutive points, eventually winning the set, 25-18, on the back of a 20-8 run to take a 2-1 lead.
Northern Nash trailed by three before winning seven consecutive points in the fourth set – six of which came with Brittany Bass serving – to tie the match at two.
Bass’ run was one of the few sustained periods of good serving for the Knights.
“Like coach always says, messing up serves just gives them free points,” Fleming said. “We were working as hard as we could, but we didn’t serve well.”
After taking a 1-0 lead in the fifth set, Northern Nash never led again.
Northern Nash felt its mistakes were correctable, and despite dropping its Big East opener, it would be fine.
“Conference is a big deal to us,” Fleming said. “We were able to be champs last year, and this year we want to keep that name.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz@ rmtelegram.com