After compiling a record of 1-1 in matches on the road Tuesday and Wednesday, the New Castle High School volleyball team returned to the friendly confines of the Fieldhouse Thursday night for a Hoosier Heritage Conference test against visiting Greenfield-Central.
As it turned out, the confines of the Fieldhouse were more friendly to the young Cougars, as they outplayed the host Trojans in almost every phase of the game to sweep past host New Castle in three sets 25-20, 25-16, 25-21.
Greenfield improved to 1-1 in the HHC and 4-8 for the season while the Trojans slipped to 1-1 in the conference and 4-6 overall.
“We just didn’t show up to play tonight,” New Castle Head Coach Victoria Pierson remarked afterward. “We had a lack of focus, a lack of energy, and a lack of awareness. We had way too many hitting errors and service errors that gave them (Cougars) points.”
The Cougars started four underclassmen (two freshmen and two sophomores), and from the beginning indicated they would not be intimidated by the four state championship banners hanging from the Fieldhouse rafters.
New Castle’s primary problem was errors and mistakes, as those miscues handed the visitors a large number of points. For the most part, Greenfield was adept at keeping the ball in play until the hosts made one of those errors.
The Trojans took a 1-0 lead in the first set on an Anyssa Hall point, but a Katie Muegge kill and Rilee Roland service ace gave the Cougars a 2-1 advantage. After an exchange of serving errors, Greenfield led 3-2 and never trailed again in the set.
From that point, the Cougars outscored New Castle 9-5 to extend their lead to 12-7. During that stretch of play, Greenfield got kills from Mya Grigsby and Muegge plus a Roland tip, while Trojan points were earned on a pair of kills and a tip by Addie Bunner.
The hosts then were able to outscore the Cougars 7-3 to pull back to within 15-14. During that segment, the Trojans got a couple of Payton Plank kills plus back-to-back Morley Blessinger service aces, while the visitors got two blocks and a kill from Grigsby.
Greenfield then went on a 7-2 run to boost its advantage to 22-16, prompting a timeout by the hosts. Two of those Cougar points came on a Harper Holden service ace and a Muegge tip, while New Castle got a point on a Hall cross-court kill.
After play resumed, three straight Greenfield hitting miscues pulled the Trojans to within 22-19, but an Emma Berty block and two New Castle hitting miscues more than offset a Plank kill, and the Cougars took set one after 20 minutes.
The Trojans got off to a terrible start in the second set, largely due to Greenfield’s play. Two kills and a block by Berty, a pair of Roland kills, and a Morgan Hornaday service ace helped stake the visitors to a 7-1 lead.
The Cougars extended their advantage to 9-2 on a Grigsby block, but an Ella Young kill and service ace chopped the lead to 9-4. Three New Castle hitting mistakes and a Grigsby kill extended the visitors’ advantage to 13-4.
A trio of Bunner kills, a kill apiece from Ellen Bergum and Hall, and a Young tip helped whittle the Trojans’ deficit to 15-10.
The two teams played evenly over the next 12 points. The Cougars got two kills from Berty and a Holden tip, while New Castle got a pair of kills from Bunner and another by Young, and the Greenfield lead stood at 21-16.
The hosts didn’t score again in the set, as three Trojan miscues mixed in with a Berty tip gave the Cougars set two after 19 minutes.
New Castle was the team that got off to a good start in the third set, as two Hall kills and a tip, a Bunner kill and service ace, and a Young kill were offset by only a Grigsby kill, and the hosts roared out to a 6-1 lead.
The Trojans still had a five-point advantage at 8-3 after kills by Berty and Grigsby were offset by a Greenfield error and a block by Alaina Bowman.
But then momentum shifted quickly. A Holden point turned the ball over to freshman teammate Makenna Rankins to serve, and she did so for six consecutive points and a 10-8 Cougar advantage.
Holden was responsible for four of those points with a trio of blocks and a kill, while Grigsby added a couple of terminations.
New Castle never led or tied again, although the set remained close for awhile. The Trojans outscored Greenfield 7-6 over the next 13 points to pull to within a point at 16-15.
During that stretch of play, the hosts got a tip and service ace from Hall, a Plank kill and point, a Bunner kill, and a Bowman block, while the Cougars got two kills from Holden and another by Roland.
Greenfield then went on a 6-0 run to take a commanding 22-15 lead in the set.During that critical period of play, Muegge had two kills, Grigsby got a kill and a point, and Hornaday added a point.
The Trojans did outscore the visitors 6-2 to pull to within 24-21. During that segment of play, Plank, Bunner, and Emily Grow had kills and Cam DeNeve had a service ace for the hosts, while Greenfield got a Grigsby kill.
But a ball served long by New Castle gave the Cougars set three after 23 minutes, and the match three games to none.
“We’re struggling with consistency right now,” Pierson added. “When we’re up, we play well, but when we fall behind and get into a rut, we have trouble getting back into it. However, I have confidence in these girls and believe we’ll be ready to play at Yorktown on Tuesday.”
No individual parameters about Thursday’s match were made available before press deadline.
Greenfield also won the junior varsity match in three sets 25-16, 13-25, 15-7.
The Trojans travel to Yorktown Tuesday night for an HHC match against the defending Class 4A state champion Tigers.
Wednesday: Westfield 3, New Castle 1
The Trojans traveled to Hamilton County Wednesday night and lost to the host Shamrocks in four sets 27-25, 8-25, 13-25, 19-25.
New Castle recorded 30 kills, led by seven from Anyssa Hall and six apiece by Addie Bunner, Ella Young, and Payton Plank. Bunner had two service aces and Cam DeNeve one. Hall and Bunner had one block each.
Young had 14 of the Trojans’ 30 assists, and Kate Martin added 12. New Castle had 85 digs, led by the double-digit efforts of Bunner and Young with 18 apiece, DeNeve 17, Martin 11, and Morley Blessinger 10.