LEWISTON — The Kendrick Tigers dropped their opening match of the Idaho 1A Division II tournament, but rebounded with a pair of hard-fought wins to keep their season and their title hopes alive.
Kendrick (19-2) faces Salmon River of Riggins today at 9 a.m. in another loser-out contest.
Facing the Watersprings Warriors of Idaho Falls, Kendrick (19-2) had a slow start in the first set, but played the Warriors close through much of the next two, only for Watersprings to pull away each time en route to a 25-11, 25-17, 25-18 finish.
Next for the Tigers came a seesaw 25-22, 29-27, 18-25, 19-25, 17-15 loser-out battle against the Castleford Wolves. After taking the first set, Kendrick trailed 24-17 in the second, but turned impenetrable on defense and clawed back to level. Having saved seven consecutive set points and eight in total, Kendrick claimed the second set courtesy of a finishing smash from 5-foot-9 middle hitter Eliza Olson.
Castleford was not easily discouraged, however, and the Wolves found the finishing touch in the third and fourth sets that they had lacked in the second. Kendrick reasserted itself early in the fifth to lead 11-5, but Castleford regrouped in a timeout and once again turned the tide, winning eight of the next nine points to come within two of victory at 13-12.
Olson hit a clutch kill just inside the corner to break the Castleford momentum and tie things back up at 13-13, and the Tigers came through a series of tense rallies to claim the eventual victory on their third match point.
“I was like, ‘just swing as hard as you can,’ ” Olson said of her inner dialogue during the crucial kill. “Just swing, and it’ll be fine.’”
Prior to the final match of the day, Kendrick was recognized for winning the state team academic award for the highest cumulative GPA in its division. The Tigers proceeded to gain more on-court glory in a 25-17, 25-23, 21-25, 26-24 victory over Rockland, staving off a fifth set by saving five set points and rallying from 24-19 down in the fourth.
It was Megan Brocke who delivered the winning blow against Rockland, slamming a kill attempt that skipped off an opposing defender’s arms and shot back into the stands.
“I was thinking, ‘hit as hard as you can,’ ” Brocke said, echoing Olson. “ ‘You have nothing to lose.’ ”