Lauren Walker, North Star’s standout senior outside hitter, sprinted past the Cougars’ backline in a desperate attempt to keep a play alive.
When Walker realized her foot speed would not help her get to the volleyball, she dove and ended up crashing into a padded wall inside Somerset High School’s gymnasium.
Walker wasn’t able to maintain possession for North Star on the play during Saturday’s District 5 Class A championship match against top-seeded Chestnut Ridge, but it was hustle plays like those and aggressive play near the net that catapulted the Cougars to a second consecutive district title as North Star defeated Chestnut Ridge, 25-20, 21-25, 25-12 and 25-13.
“When you put that kind of effort, hustle and desire with talent, that’s what happens,” North Star coach Tony Crisafulli said. “They’ve played their hearts out all season long.”
Walker led North Star (19-0), which plays District 6 runner-up Bishop Carroll on Tuesday, with 15 kills and 10 service points. Her kills always seemed to come at just the right time for the second-seeded Cougars, who handed the Lions (18-10 their first loss.
Setters Krista Valentine and Kelli Putman both finished with 18 assists, while Abby Charlton had 18 service points and six kills.
Ellie Fleegle and Morgan Cannin were big parts of North Star’s strong play at the net. Both finished with nine kills apiece and had several blocks at the net.
“We had been working hard on our hitting and defense and the girls came through when they had to,” Crisafulli said. “The first game, they were a little hesitant and tentative but they became more aggressive after that.”
That aggression cause Chestnut Ridge, which dropped to Class A before the season and advanced to a district final for the first time since 1985, to back off at the net in the third and fourth games.
“We struggled hitting. Our hitting fell apart,” Lions coach Tammy Clingerman said. “We were either up late or not swinging right, and they blocked us several times.”
Samantha Knisely led Chestnut Ridge with eight kills and six blocks. Emily Finnegan also finished with six blocks.