RAPID RIVER - It took all five sets for North Central to knock off Rapid River on Wednesday, but for the Jets, winning five set matches is becoming routine.
North Central (10-8) edged the Rockets 3-2 (25-19, 19-25, 19-25, 25-23, 15-9). The Jets have played in six, five set matches, winning all but one, a early season loss to Superior Central.
"We've had a lot of fifth sets this year and they manage to win most of them," said North Central head coach Andy DeBock. "They get there and they don't back down and they don't wait, they just keep pushing forward. We like to call it the fast 15, the girls get to 15 as fast as they can, that way they keep their motivation up."
Paul Gerard photo
North Central’s Paige Whitens goes up to spike the ball as Rapid River’s Josie Miller (8) and Rachel LaCosse (1) defend, Wednesday night at Rapid River.
Senior Paige Whitens was a key component in the fifth set. With the Jets clinging to a 10-9 lead, Whitens went on a five point service run that included a game winning ace.
DeBock had high praise for Whitens, who has been playing on varsity since her sophomore year.
Paige has been stepping up for me for years," he said. "She's never let us down, she's never let her team down, she's never quit. Every game we won she ended up with a big kill and that's what we needed all season long to finish through. I couldn't ask for a better player, a good motivator and a team player."
North Central: Paige Whitens, 12 kills, two blocks, 13 digs, three aces; Morgan Wells, seven kills, one block, 12 digs, one ace; RayAnn LaFord, three kills, seven digs, two aces; Kelsey LaBonte, three kills, two digs; Kennedy Faccio, 20 assists, seven digs, two aces.
Whitens, recorded 12 kills in the win and picked up the game winning kill in both the first and fourth sets to help edge the Rockets. Rapid River head coach Lisa Kanyuh said her team didn't take advantage of Whitens placement.
"She's a really good player and when she's in the back row we need to take advantage of it and we didn't," Kanyuh said. "In the front row, she's just putting the ball down, that's all there was to it. We knew they were going to feed her and our blockers were earlier, they didn't wait."
The Jets snagged the first set of the night 25-19, using a six point run to break open a 8-8 tie. DeBock said his team came out with the right mindset and played a clean game.
"The girls showed up right away," he said. "They started off really motivated and it showed in the first game. They had very minimal mistakes which is something we've been struggling with towards the end of the season here."
The Rockets responded in the second and third set, winning both 25-19, before dropping a closely contested fourth set 25-23.
"It's very frustrating to know what your team is capable of and things just don't get done on the court to produce that win," Kanyuh said. I think the team has the heart and the desire to win, we just made some bad decisions on where to put the ball down and people start playing timid and there you have it, the end of the game."
Rapid River got good production out of freshman Maddy Moss and sophomore Shannon Gould who were making their varsity debut. Kanyuh said that Moss adds a lot of speed to the lineup.
It was the last regular season game for both teams, as they enter district play next week. Kanyuh said it's time to forget about records and start fresh.
"This season is done, it's over with and good riddance to it because now we start over again in districts," Kanyuh said.
Rapid River kicks off district action at home on Tuesday as they play host to Big Bay de Noc. North Central starts district play on Monday, as they take on Carney-Nadeau at home.