Ally Duncan’s rebel yell grew louder, her face more expressive, with each monstrous kill.
“We’ve had that in us the whole season, but we just needed to bring it out,” the Catholic Central High School volleyball standout said with a wide grin. “In our hearts, we just wanted to finally play to our full potential.”
Duncan’s high-leaping, hard-hitting intensity proved contagious Saturday at London High School, where the spirited Irish escaped with a rowdy 25-12, 25-20 win over Kenton Ridge in a battle of area unbeatens.
“What won this match for us today was — and maybe there’s a better word for it, I don’t know — our obnoxiousness,” joked Central coach Stacey Webster, whose team jumped to 10-0 behind Duncan’s match-high 12 kills.
“Kenton Ridge is usually loud and crazy, and that affected us,” Webster said. “We didn’t play well in scrimmages against them because they were just nuts, nuts, nuts. It intimidated us a little bit. We learned from scrimmaging them that we want to be the intimidators from now on.”
Central grabbed early control of the match’s tone and tempo with a mixed bag of quick-hits, off-speed tips, two-handed dumps and floor-burn defense.
But what seemed to rattle the 11-1 Cougars most was all the unexpected noise on the other side of the net.
“I attribute it to being Saturday morning … and having that monkey on your back,” Kenton Ridge coach Lori Saunders said of her team’s lackluster start. “That 11-0 is like a huge target.”
The Cougars awoke in game two and rallied from an 11-4 deficit to within five points, 20-15, behind the menacing hits of junior Taylor Brown.
The 5-10 outside hitter finished with a team-high 10 kills, most coming during the Cougars’ feverish comeback.
“It’s a huge rivalry,” said KR assistant coach Laura Clay. “We scrimmaged them and practiced with them all summer long. Everyone’s friends on both sides. It’s almost like a sibling rivalry, kind of a ‘we love you but want to kill you’ thing.”
But it was the Irish who earned bragging rights for the next 365 days, snuffing the KR rally behind a string of six late-match kills from Duncan, their unstoppable Division-I college recruit.
“We definitely picked it up emotionally this game,” said 6-1 senior middle hitter Chloe Brandewie, who pestered for four kills, two blocks and four digs.
“We were determined to win this game. With both of us undefeated, we knew we had to really turn it on and play with heart. That’s the first time all year we’ve been that ‘up’ the entire match.”
Lauren Hoendorf tallied 16 assists, four kills and 10 digs for Central, while Stephanie Lohnes added 10 digs and three kills.
The Cougars got eight digs from Bailey Mounts, seven digs and three kills from Julia Littell, and a match-high 20 assists from Sierra Kirk.