Larry Moore Gymnasium was rocking.
A large vocal crowd turned out on Tuesday, Aug. 29, to see the much-anticipated match-up between the host Lady Knights and the visiting Lady Red Devils from Richmond. The two schools are not in the same enrollment class, they are not in the same conference and they won’t be assigned to the same sectional, but on Tuesday they battled like they were playing for a state title.
The Lady Knights scored the first 3 points in the first set and quickly pushed their advantage to 11-3 before the Lady Red Devils fought back to pull within 3 points at 16-13. The Knights pulled away again winning the set 25-19 on a Lillian Null kill.
The Lady Knights have not lost a single set this season, but in the second set the Lady Red Devils took them to the wire. The Lady Knights again took a 3-0 lead to open the set and pushed their advantage to 9-3 before Richmond started reeling them in. The Knights were clinging to a 17-13 lead before the Red Devils scored 4 straight points to pull even at 17-17. The Red Devils took their first lead at 18-17 on a service ace from Holly Trotter before the Knights tied the match at 18-18. The match was tied again at 19, 20 and 24 before the Knights finally found separation with back-to-back points to win 26-24. It was again a kill from Lillian Null that ended the set.
Richmond bounced back in the third set to take a 5-2 lead before Northeastern came back to tie the set at 5-5. The teams battled to ties at 6, 11 and 12 before the Knights started to pull away to a 25-18 set victory to close out the win.
Richmond head coach Darrell Morken shared his observations after the match. “I thought we should win this match,” Morken said. “We had a chance to win the second set and couldn’t finish. There were things we could have done better tonight, but it also allowed some of our younger players to play and they played well. For example, I thought Taylor George played very well. One of the things we fight is that because we are the biggest school in Wayne County we are expected to win. The other schools in Wayne County are more than capable of playing good volleyball, and they are. We must raise our level of play.”
Northeastern head coach Matt Fisher coached many of the Richmond players at the lower levels, so while he was happy to see his team win, he had feelings for the Richmond players. “Not only myself, but the coaches on both staffs have coached several of these kids,” Fisher said. “Most of the kids on both teams know each other and that made this match more fun. My kids knew how much this match meant to me and they played very well. We beat a good team tonight and we want to keep this game on the schedule for years to come. My team is not only skilled, they have huge character and they showed that again tonight.”
Northeastern improved to 6-0, Richmond is 6-5.
Richmond won the JV match 2-1.
A version of this article appeared in the September 6 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.