Two days after making a miraculous comeback to reach its first ever regional final, Harper Creek fell victim to Berrien Springs, 3-1, and bowed out of the MHSAA Class B tournament on Thursday night.
The Beavers lost in four: 25-27, 22-25, 27-25 and 25-15.
The Beavers found themselves with late leads in each of the first three sets, but just couldn’t pull out wins in the first two.
Berrien Springs senior Holly Toliver had a lot to do with that, as she finished with 39 kills, nine digs and five aces on the night. Toliver has committed to playing at Michigan State University next year.
“We’re used to wearing teams down, and we weren’t really wearing (Toliver) down,” said Harper Creek head coach Terra King. “We hoped that if we kept pushing, she would get frustrated, and obviously that didn’t happen. We just weren’t able to put all of the pieces together.”
The first set went back and forth between the two teams, and ended up knotted at 25 before Toliver recorded a kill and an ace to put the Shamrocks up 1-0.
In set two, Harper Creek trailed 11-6 early, but two kills each from Charley Andrews and Lauren Grimes helped the Beavers score 10 straight points and lead, 16-11. However, the Shamrocks were able to regain the lead and win, 25-22.
At this point, Harper Creek (29-18-7) was in familiar territory. On Tuesday, the Beavers were down 2-0 to Plainwell before they rallied together for a 3-2 victory.
“It was easy for me to look at (my players) and say, ‘hey, we’ve been here – we’ve done this.’ I really thought that it would give us the ‘umph’ to fight through,” said King.
Set three featured another large lead for the Beavers, 18-10. And again, the Shamrocks erased the lead to tie the game at 25. This time, though, Olivia Leson and Kim Kusler each recorded a kill to finish off the set and get a 27-25 win.
“When we pulled out game three, I really thought that we were going to be able to push through,” said King. “But it’s volleyball, you get in a rotation and they score a few points on you, and it’s hard to get your momentum back.”
It was all Shamrocks in game four. They broke out to an early 14-4 lead, and the Beavers were never quite able to recover, and eventually lost 25-15.
Harper Creek freshman Leson finished with 21 digs, 19 kills, three aces and a block. Also for the Beavers, Edrie Ganey tallied 30 assists, nine digs, two aces and a block. Leading the team in digs was Kendall Latshaw with 28.
“We’re a very, very young team,” said King. “The fact that we are where we are shows a maturity in them that I’m surprised we have. To see them fight through that third game – that just makes me proud.”
Having such a young team is a positive for Harper Creek as they look ahead to the future. The vast majority of the team is made up of freshmen and sophomores, so this season’s playoff run might be a sign of things to come.