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Carroll volleyball tops Kapaun, moves into tie atop City League standings

Published Oct. 17 at 10:37 p.m. | Last updated Oct. 17 at 10:38 p.m.

When Bishop Carroll junior libero Kelsey Schippers dives for a volleyball, digs up a powerful hit, it’s all about trying to help the Eagles win — and avoid having to look at assistant coach Scott Larkin if she doesn’t make the play.

“Scott Larkin is one of our new assistant coaches, and I get scared if I don’t go after a ball,” Schippers said with a laugh. “The look he gives you — you go after every single ball.”

Schippers, who moved to libero after being a setter her whole career, was a force in the back row for Carroll as the Eagles beat Kapaun 25-20, 21-25, 25-22 Thursday night at West.

Carroll also beat West 25-7, 25-11, while Kapaun beat West 25-1, 25-11.

Carroll and Kapaun both have one loss in the City League and have two matches remaining. Kapaun, which is ranked second in Class 5A, lost one time previously, to top-ranked, defending champion St. James.

“It’s the biggest win,” said Carroll junior hitter Taylor Bevis, who had 12 kills and a stuff block against Kapaun. “It’s our City League win. It’s everything that we’ve been working for, and now that we have that under our belt, it makes us that more motivated (going into the postseason).”

While Carroll also had strong offensive showings from Haley Northcutt (six kills), Jessi Haffner (six kills) and Lyndsey Becker (seven kills, four stuff blocks), the defensive play from the back row players was vital.

Carroll rarely let a ball drop. Kapaun’s top two hitters, Sydney Kuhn and Audrey Grant, had a combined 26 kills, including 17 by Kuhn, but the Crusaders only had six other kills in the match.

“They were amazing tonight,” Haffner said of the Eagles’ defensive players. “We outpassed Kapaun, and that was what really helped us out. The momentum you get from passing is unreal. When you have Kelsey back there digging balls, it’s a huge uplift for the setter and the hitter and it gives you that much more energy.

“When Sydney (Kuhn) goes up and you’re like ‘here it comes, here it comes,’ then you see it and Kelsey digs it up, it’s like whoa, and you get excited.”

There were times through the course of the match that Carroll dug a hit, surprising Kapaun.

“Those points where they’re out of system and they’re not ready for the ball to come back, they don’t get a good approach, they don’t get a good kill,” Bevis said. “We then get it back, and we do what we know how to do.”

And while Carroll’s defense shined, Kapaun’s passing on serve-receive and hits was shaky, which also affected the offense. The Crusaders have a potent offense, one of the best in the state, but it didn’t have any flow or rhythm.

Yet Kapaun came back from losing the first set to win the second. Trailing 16-15, Kapaun scored 10 of the set’s final 15 points, getting kills from Kuhn, Grant and Gabby Torline.

Carroll took a 5-0 lead in the third set, forcing a Kapaun timeout. The break worked and Kapaun got right back into the match with two kills by Kuhn, one from Makenna Johnson.

The score was tight thereafter. Even when Carroll took a 20-16 lead after a Jessica Hageman kill, Kapaun scored four straight to tie it at 20-all.

But Carroll scored five of the final seven points and Haffner, who played sparingly because of a severely bruised rib at the McPherson tournament on Oct. 12, ended the match with a kill.

“We had finished second three years in a row, so this is nice for them,” Carroll coach Rita Mernagh said. “We knew Kapaun would be an amazing team this year, but this rivalry, it can cause problems for anybody.”

Reach Joanna Chadwick at 316-268-6270 or jchadwick@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @joannachadwick.