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North Miami loses steam down the stretch against Kokomo

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VISITOR: North Miami’s Olivia Kuhn nearly joins the crowd on hand for Wednesday night’s non-conference volleyball match against Kokomo trying to save a wayward pass during the third set. The Warriors won the opening set but missed out on sets two and three and were routed in the deciding set, falling to the Wildkats 19-25, 25-22, 25-22, 25-9.
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TALL ORDER: North Miami’s Maryann Freeman (14) manages to find a gap in the Kokomo defense to get an attack through during Wednesday night’s non-conference volleyball match. Freeman had nine kills on the night for the Warriors in the four-set loss to the Wildkats.

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

North Miami managed to buck a trend against Kokomo Wednesday night that had been plaguing the team in volleyball matches between the two schools, namely not being able to win the opening set.  

A familiar face among the Wildkats, however, ensured that would be the only set the Warriors won as the visitors swept the next three sets to win 19-25, 25-22, 25-22, 25-9.

North Miami head coach Karise Kabage said the girls showed plenty of fight to start the match but didn’t have the answer at certain points to carry through to a win.

“The girls were ready to go in set one,” Kabage said. “They were pumped and ready to go.

“They lost a little intensity in sets two and three but they were right there in each one. We weren’t able to take advantage of some rotations and needed someone to step up in the front row to give us some needed points.

“Had we found an answer in our weaker rotations, the game may have turned out very differently,” Kabage added.

The Warriors had often found themselves staring down 0-2 deficits in recent seasons against Kokomo but had plenty of fire in their eyes to start the match as Adria Hartley made a homecoming of sorts in the red, white and blue colors of the Wildkats.

A steady start for the hosts saw them hold a three point lead at 10-7, growing to four at 13-9 and as large as five at 19-14.

Kokomo rattled off three-straight point to trim the gap to two and eventually pulled to within a point at 20-19 but off the back of Ragin Stein’s serve, North Miami took the next five points to win the set 25-19.

The hosts started off the second set with the lead again but fell behind after Kokomo took six-of-seven points to grab a 10-6 lead.

A pair of rotation violations helped spark mini Wildkat runs in the set yet the Warriors stayed within striking distance, tying the match at 17-17 and held its latest lead at 20-19.

Three-straight for the visitors flipped the lead around as Hartley hammered in the final three points needed for Kokomo to level the match with a 25-22 second set win.

Set three was almost a repeat of the second set with North Miami holding an early lead before the visitors turned it around for the middle of the set.

The Warriors tied the set at 19-19 and took a 20-19 lead once again, only four four-straight from the Wildkats to flip the score around again, ending with the hosts falling 25-22 for a second-straight set.

Trying to stand toe-to-toe with the visitors was not a winning formula but being able to force a breakdown in play, one that favored the hosts, wasn’t always viable according to Kabage.

“We wanted to return to the scrappy play by getting the balls in the right spots but we weren’t able to do that,” Kabage noted. “It was frustrating when the girls would scrap for a point and still not get it.

“We were trying and some things just weren’t working.”

For once, Kokomo got off to a decent start in the fourth set, holding a 5-3 lead and taking back serve at 8-4.

North Miami was starting to show signs of slowing down and Hartley knocked what fight was left in the team out of them with four-straight aces, giving the Wildkats a 12-8 lead.

The Warriors won the next point but Kokomo would rip off 10 in-a-row, cruising through the final points to win 25-9.

After being thwarted twice in the second and third sets, Kabage said Kokomo didn’t need a lot of help to land the knockout blow.

“It was very early on in set four where we decided we were done,” Kabage said. “We hadn’t done a lot of subbing to that point and the girls were getting tired but I wanted them to keep pushing.

“We’re not disappointed in sets two or three but the fourth set was a mental toughness thing.”

North Miami participates in the Eastbrook Invitational Saturday before the final Miami County volleyball match of the season when Peru visits next Tuesday.

Kabage said the girls were hurt a little by the loss but would up once again for the Tigers next week.

“The girls had motivation to win tonight,” Kabage said. “It might have been because the girls felt they had something to prove.

“Tuesday’s motivation will come from a different place because we’ve always had a rivalry with Peru as they’re a county team. They’ll rally up for this game.”