Dragons close out long week with loss to Pendleton Heights


PENDLETON — The New Palestine volleyball team knew this week was going to be tough.

On Tuesday they traveled over an hour away to Delta, on Wednesday they hosted Perry Meridian, and on Thursday night they made another long trip to Pendleton Heights for a Hoosier Heritage Conference match.

After wins on Tuesday and Wednesday, the wear and tear of the long week finally caught up to the Dragons (13-3, 1-2) on Thursday.

They fell to the Arabians (16-8, 2-2) 3-0 in straight sets 25-18, 25-23, and 25-21.

“We went four sets with Delta on Tuesday and didn’t get home till 10:45, went four with Perry, so we knew it was a long and tough week. Going 2-1 I’m pretty proud of,” New Palestine head coach Kelli Gabehart said. “Obviously, we wanted to get this match because it’s conference, but it’s just a long week and they didn’t make very many mistakes tonight and we didn’t capitalize.”

The tiredness of the long week led to slow New Palestine starts in the first and second sets.

Pendleton Heights led the entirety of Set 1 and Set 2 on its way to a two-set lead.

Kills from five different players over the Arabians first nine points led to an early 9-5 Pendleton Heights lead. Mikala Ross, Annie Canada, Gianna Kanitz, Carmen Horn and Kaycie Warfel each had one.

Six more Ross and two more Warfel kills the remainder of the set kept the Dragons at bay, and led to the 25-18 win in Set 1.

“She’s [Ross] a great outside hitter,” Gabehart said. “Their middles were frustrating us even more though because they were very quick and their set was just barely above the net so our middles had a hard time adjusting. We kind of got the hang of it towards the end.”

The Dragons slow start and deficit for the majority of Set 2 was caused by their troubles serving.

A service error to start the match kick-started an 8-2 Pendleton Heights lead. In the set, the Dragons had five service errors.

“Serving was a big issue for us tonight,” Gabehart said.

Down 20-13 later in the set, following a timeout by Gabehart, the Dragons began their comeback.

New Palestine scored nine of the next 11 points to tie things up for the first time since 2-2 in Set 1.

Nyla Lewis and Bella Brownfield had kills over the stretch, and Rachel Burke had an ace.

Another Brownfield kill made things 23-23, before another Dragons service error set up Warfel for the set-winning kill.

“We’ve been starting slow, honestly, and have been inconsistent, but we have fought back in so many sets that we have been down,” Gabehart said. “We have the fight, but sometimes I think the girls are like ‘we’ll get it’ and we just can’t do that against a team like Pendleton.

A Brownfield kill to open Set 3 gave the Dragons their first lead of the night, but Ross matched her. Two Ross kills kept things at 3-3.

New Palestine grabbed back the lead 8-7 behind two Burke kills, but from there, the Arabians would take back control.

A Brea Perry ace started things, and a few more kills by Ross allowed the Arabians to grab a 15-12 lead.

The Dragons tied things back up 19-19 before Pendleton Heights grabbed six of the final eight points.

“Defensively we had trouble getting the ball in play. Azure [Flagle] played amazing tonight, but she would make a great dig and then we would hit it into the net,” Gabehart said. “We have to raise our level of play a little bit.”

The Dragons return to action Monday at 7 p.m. at home against Mooresville.