POULSBO — The Vikings got plenty of floor burns in Tuesday night’s match with Central Kitsap, but not enough points.
The North Kitsap High School Vikings, who defeated the Cougars earlier this year, opened their league season Tuesday, and, like all games between these two teams, it was marked by bleacher-rattling fans, foul-calling parents, and long rallies.
In the end it was the Cougars who won, three games to one; while the Vikings several times jumped out to a lead, too often they let their rivals from the south claw their way back into it.
“We started out quick, got some points, and then let them back in,” said North Kitsap coach Clay Blackwood, who thought the Vikings eased off when they shouldn’t have.
“I thought we’d come out more fired up,” he said.
That fire was there as the match opened.
One half of the gym’s fans wore Cougar black and orange, but in the beginning it was all purple.
With Angela Kramer serving, the Vikings reeled off three unanswered points.
The Cougars came back with Ashley Wiseman serving, scoring a pair of points and making it 3-2.
North jumped out again, with a Tara Smyth hit crackling past Wiseman and giving the Vikings a 5-3 lead.
But after the Vikings’ Katie Cortner served up an ace and gave North a 7-4 lead, the Cougars surged back again. First a Wiseman ace brought them to within 7-6; then an Allison Carroll tip tied the game at 7; and the next point, scored off a Jackie Miller serve, gave the Cougars a one-point lead.
From then on it was all downhill for the Vikings. With Carroll serving, the Cougars landed shot after shot on the Vikings. The score zoomed to 10-7, then 13-7, and finally ended the game at 15-7 with miscommunication, hits into the net, and falling shots sullying the end of the match for the Vikings.
It was Central that took an early lead in the second game, scoring three points to go on top quickly.
But the Vikings fought back, tying the game at three when Amber Markwick hopped up and tipped the ball over the net and past the defense.
The score seesawed back and forth, with North holding a lead at 8-7; but again Central took the lead and, with Katrina Wetterhus serving, widened the gap between the two teams from 10-8 to 13-8. A pair of long rallies made no difference as Central took the second game, 15-8.
In the third game North came roaring back. The two teams dueled for several scoreless minutes, but Cortner proved to be the answer for the Vikes, serving up point after point and, with an ace, giving North a 5-0 lead. Adrienne Carter and Angela Kramer also shared serving duties, and did well, boosting North to an 8-0 lead.
North surged more. A Sheena Brundage hit made it 11-1.
North pushed the score to its breaking point, grabbing a 14-3 lead, before Central struggled their way back into the game.
An Allison Sumner ace made it it 14-6; a Katie Bohannon hammer-blow made it 14-8; and, as nervous NK fans gazed warily at the scoreboard, a booming Jackie Miller hit pulled the Cougars within one, 14-13.
But North fought to earn a side out, then celebrated after Markwick and CK’s Jolina Fanua met at the net, both hitting, with the ball falling past Fanua for a North win, 15-13.
The fourth game was just as close; in fact it was closer, with the teams dueling back and forth until North held a 15-14 lead after Cortner served up an ace.
But a team must lead by two to win, so the match went on. The Cougars’ Mandy Frum tied the game with a serve that was returned too long; Fanua gave the Cougars a lead with a leaping hit that richocheted away from the Viking defenders.
An Angela Kramer serve tied the game again at 16; but it was the closest the Vikings would get. After a long rally, with the Vikings’ Smyth diving to the floor in order to keep one hit alive, the Cougars’ Fanua hit the ball to an open spot, giving the Cougars a 17-16 lead; and Carroll’s shot proved too deadly for the Vikings, who couldn’t return it and lost 18-16.
“It was a great match,” Cougars coach Gordy Bushaw said afterwards. “We played some of our best volleyball of the year.”
The Cougars went to 2-0 in league play with the win, while North dropped to 1-0, giving them an uphill battle.
Coach Blackwood thinks they can do it.
“I told them in that fourth game that if we lose now, there wouldn’t be a fifth game. You saw the results. CK won, but they had to fight tooth and nail.”