By KEVIN HARRIS
NEW ALBANY – Last Thursday in its home opener, a youthful New Albany team suffered a five-set loss to Heritage Hills.
Last Saturday in the Bulldog Invitational, the New Albany players showed they learned some important lessons from the setback to the Patriots.
The Bulldogs claimed the Bulldog Invite title by defeating the formidable Castle Knights in another five-set thriller at The Doghouse 12-25, 25-22, 30-28, 19-25, 15-13.
“All teams in every sport have finishers and that’s what we did. I thought we showed a lot of toughness in that fifth game,” New Albany head coach John Breeding said. “I think (the Heritage Hills loss) was a learning experience. But at the same time in that learning experience, certain people made the right choices to get the ball to who needed to get the ball and put the ball away and finish.”
New Albany won the first match of the annual three-team round-robin tournament over Hoosier Hills Conference rival Jennings County 25-17, 25-13, 25-17. In the second match, Castle rolled past the Panthers 25-10, 25-6, 25-15.
The Bulldogs (3-1) had a lackadaisical start versus the Knights in the 13-point loss in Set 1. Immediately after the opening set, Breeding had a talk with his players in the Vincennes Street foyer entrance of The Doghouse.
“We said you guys are standing around watching instead of being doers,” Breeding said. “I wanted to make sure that they understood that if we’re going to go out there, we’re going to give it our all - win or lose. We weren’t doing that in Game 1.”
New Albany responded with narrow victories in Sets 2 and 3. Trailing 23-20 in the second set, Castle (3-1) pulled within one after a kill by junior Jessica Nunge and a service ace by sophomore Carly Harpenau. But the Knights did not get any closer after making a service error, then an attack error.
New Albany built a 23-19 advantage in Set 3 when sophomore Riley Winslow delivered a kill. But the Knights responded with a 6-1 run to go up 25-24.
With the score tied at 28, the Bulldogs sewed up the set with back-to-back kills by senior standout Allyson Cathey and sophomore Danielle Grant.
However, instead of clinching the match in the fourth set, New Albany went back to its Set 1 ways. Castle bolted out to a 12-3 lead. The Bulldogs trimmed their deficit to 15-12, but that was the closest they got.
“Not taking anything away from Castle because (Knights’ head coach Daniel Watson) has got a good team,” Breeding said. “But in both (Sets 1 and 4), it’s kind of like we just stood back and waited for things to happen instead of making them happen.”
Trailing 9-8 in the fifth set, Castle reeled off four consecutive points to go up three.
But New Albany had the last laugh. Down 13-10, the Bulldogs went on a match-winning 5-0 run as Cathey smacked three kills during that spurt.
“I thought we made some great plays during the whole match. We’re always looking for people to compete,” Breeding said.
Cathey, a Western Kentucky University recruit, recorded 34 kills and 11 digs.
“What I’m most proud about Allyson Cathey is her overall play,” Breeding said. “Everybody knows that the girl can pound the ball. Everybody knows that the girl can block. But she has improved her entire game from serve reception to serving to playing defense. That’s what I’m most proud of. She’s becoming a good leader out on the court.”
New Albany senior outside hitter Shea Collett also had a double-double with 10 kills and 10 digs. Collett served four aces.
Bulldog setter Kyla Weber distributed 50 assists and made 17 digs. Winslow had nine digs and eight kills. Also for New Albany, freshman Bree Martin had 13 digs and senior Mary Claire Meyer wound up with 11 digs.
Nunge led Castle with 29 kills.
Cathey paced the New Albany offense against Jennings County with 17 kills. Weber dished out 16 assists.
The Bulldogs will host the River City Invitational this coming Saturday, starting at 9 a.m.
NEW ALBANY 3, JENNINGS COUNTY 0
Jennings Co. 17 13 17
New Albany 25 25 25
NEW ALBANY STATS
Allyson Cathey: 7 kills, 5 digs.
Riley Winslow: 3 kills, 2 digs.
Shea Collett: 4 kills, 3 digs.
Kyla Weber: 16 assists, 3 digs, 1 kill.
Danielle Grant: 3 kills.
Tess Owsley: 2 kills, 2 digs.
Mary Claire Meyer: 3 digs, 2 assists.
Saylor Knoy: 2 digs.
Bree Martin: 4 digs.
NEW ALBANY 3, CASTLE 2
Castle 25 22 28 25 13
New Albany 12 25 30 19 15
NEW ALBANY STATS
Winslow: 9 digs, 8 kills.
Cathey: 34 kills, 11 digs, 4 assists, 3 aces, 2 blocks.
Meyer: 11 digs, 2 aces.
Collett: 10 kills, 10 digs, 4 aces, 1 assist.
Weber: 50 assists, 17 digs, 1 kill.
Martin: 13 digs, 1 kill.
Grant: 6 digs, 2 kills, 2 blocks, 1 ace.
Owsley: 1 kill, 1 dig.
Knoy: 1 assist.