KANE — Finding itself in a playoff grinder in its first trip to the postseason in 12 years, the Brookville Lady Raiders volleyball team couldn’t hang on to a late lead and were knocked out in a grueling five-set loss to Kane.
Earning the third seed in the four-team District 9 Class AA playoffs, the Lady Raiders trekked north for another matchup with Kane last Wednesday. During the season, they jumped on the hosts for a 2-0 lead before dropping the final three sets.
This time around, it was Kane that rallied from a 2-1 set deficit to win the final two sets in a 25-16, 14-25, 16-25, 25-22, 15-12 that earned a championship rematch with Redbank Valley.
And unlike last year when Kane fell to Redbank Valley in five sets, the Lady Wolves got their revenge and their title in a three-set sweep at St. Marys High School last Saturday.
So, the Lady Raiders almost knocked off the eventual champs.
“We had them on the ropes and just couldn’t shut the door and that’s where our inexperience, not having any experience at this level hurt and they had tons of experience … We did what we could and my kids fought hard,” said Lady Raiders head coach Joyce Reitz, whose team finished the year at 11-8.
It was Brookville’s first trip to the playoffs since 2005, its first winning season since 2004 with this year just the second winning season since at least 1997.
“Kane did a nice job when they were down to come back and win and I think my kids gained some valuable experience,” Reitz said. “Teams will take notice that we have a volleyball team in Brookville and not just in other sports.”
The Lady Raiders appeared to be headed to Saturday with a 20-16 lead late in the fourth set, but a 9-2 run sparked by outside hitter Trinity Clark won it for Kane, which then took the momentum into the decisive fifth set to 15.
Still, Brookville led 11-9 after a Leah Kammerdeiner ace, but four Clark kills sparked a match-clinching 6-1 run to end the night.
Clark was the difference, dominating her way to 25 kills with teammate Ella Marconi adding 18 kills and three blocks. Hannah Buhl had 46 assists.
So when the Lady Raiders served it well, Kane couldn’t get into any offensive rhythm, which is what happened in the second and third sets after the visitors shook off a long bus ride into postseason pressure in the first set.
“We served better,” Reitz said. “Our serving was much better and our passing was better and we could attack. They were not passing and moving. We did what we needed to do on this side but couldn’t translate it on the other side (of the floor).”
Brookville out-aced Kane in the service department, 19-2. Leah Kammerdeiner and Kira Powell each had six aces while twin sisters Madison and Morgan Johnson each finished with three. At the net, Pearson had 17 kills and eight blocks. Powell turned in a strong night at the net as well with seven kills and Mikayla Aikins had three kills and three blocks.
The Lady Raiders led for good after a 2-2 tie in the second set, then blasted off to a 17-4 lead to start the third set. Kammerdeiner had four of her aces in the set.
Then in the fourth, a Marconi kill put Kane up 16-15 before the Lady Raiders scored five straight points — two on Pearson kills, one on a Powell ace and Cheyanne Gotwald kill — to grab the 20-16 edge.
But Kane roared back with three Clark kills and an ace, and a Marconi kill to finish off the run and even things at 2-2, and get Kane on the side of the court opposite the raucous and loud and involved student body that was bussed from Brookville.
“That Brookville crowd was rough,” Kane head coach Jude Kessler credited. “We didn’t want to be down there on that end for the fifth set and that’s why we chose this side for receiving, but we do that anyway when we win the coin toss. The fans were a factor tonight, but I credit the kids for not stopping and continuing to fight.”
Especially Clark, who had six kills in the fifth set, putting her team on her back and getting it back to another championship matchup.
For Reitz and the Lady Raiders, it was a tough pill to swallow, but an acknowledgment and nod to a promising future.
“It was an experience, but the kids were very disappointed and wanted to play Saturday for the title,” she said. “But it’s a good sign. We’re moving forward.”