NORTH VERNON — After falling to Jennings County in the final match of last year’s Panther Invitational, the Columbus North volleyball team was intent on ensuring the same thing didn’t happen again.
Both teams entered Saturday’s final match at 2-0 on the day after straight-set wins against Ben Davis and Scottsburg. This time, the Bull Dogs won the finale, claiming a 25-13, 25-13 victory.
“Since we’ve been struggling the last few years, it’s great to come in, finish a tournament and win it,” North senior Hannah Weaver said. “Last year, we should have won it, but we just failed. So this year, we came out strong, knowing that we have to be aggressive every game.”
The Bull Dogs (8-3) served aggressively in the final match. Behind Mady Johnson’s serving, they scored the first five points of the opening set and never looked back.
With North clinging to a 13-8 lead in the second set, Johnson served three consecutive aces to allow the Bull Dogs to pull away.
“Lately, (serving) hasn’t been my strong suit,” said Johnson, who led North with a combined 41 assists and six aces in the three matches. “I’ve been struggling with it, but I told myself I was going to get them in this game, and I got them all in.”
The Bull Dogs never trailed against the Panthers (3-11) and never allowed more than three consecutive points.
“We came together, and we didn’t get as down on ourselves as we usually do,” Johnson said. “We usually lose the lead, but we kept it up today, and I thought we did a really good job.”
North opened the day with a 25-13, 25-7 rout of Scottsburg. They then downed Ben Davis 25-19, 25-22.
That set up the winner-take-all match with Jennings.
“I thought we had a great day,” Weaver said. “We continued to get better and continued to work on everything. We never let down on ourselves.”
Imani Guy pounded 27 kills and eight blocks for North. Maliah Howard-Bass also had eight blocks and Mackenzie Rooks notched 20 digs.
Howard-Bass pounded 19 kills; Hannah Weaver added 15 kills and two aces; and Augustina Fainguersch had 12 kills, 17 digs and four aces. Lily Meyercord contributed 29 assists and 10 digs, and Maddy Sebahar had 10 digs.
“I think the girls played really consistent today,” North coach Caitie Greiner said. “We didn’t have a lot of lulls in play. We didn’t let teams come back once we gained the lead. I think they played well.”
The Panthers beat Ben Davis 25-16, 25-16 and Scottsburg 25-14, 25-15 before falling to the Bull Dogs.
Carissa Kinney led Jennings with 39 assists, 31 digs and seven aces, while Emma McPeek had 15 kills and seven assist blocks. Kinney and Sydney Brown each pounded 12 kills, Denza Simpson recorded six assists, Brown had one solo and three assist blocks and Sydney Holt notched 18 digs.
“Columbus North is a good team with a couple of good strong hitters, and we didn’t have our passing game, and we didn’t have our blocking game,” Jennings coach Susan Kinney said. “To win games, you have to serve and you have to pass, and we didn’t pass. We had been serving aggressive all day, and we sort of let up that last game. We just kind of ran out of some energy.”