Fightin’ Stars rally for 5-set victory over Edgewood

BNL’s Annie Waggoner and Carlee Kern combine to challenge Edgewood’s Kaiden Harrington for a ball at the net. The Stars rallied from a 2-0 deficit for a 5-set win over the Mustangs on Monday night.

By Justin Sokeland

BEDFORD – The scoreboard displayed the truth, although Bedford North Lawrence coach Gabrielle Arthur refused to look at it or believe it. She almost couldn’t handle the truth. The Stars had just gotten thrashed, trailed 2-0 in sets, and most teams would have been preparing for an early exit. Code Red and go home.

Not so fast, non-believers. Not so fast.

For the second time in this unpredictable, anything-can-happen season, the Stars rallied from the brink of defeat for a thrilling marathon triumph, rallying to conquer Edgewood in two hours and five sets on Monday night.

BNL looked as dead as a goldfish in the toilet bowl, about to get flushed, before surfacing for a 23-25, 11-25, 25-22, 25-23, 15-10 win. Carlee Kern and Annie Waggoner led the charge as the Stars improved to 3-1 with another improbable comeback.

After a tense opening set, with the Mustangs breaking late from a 22-22 deadlock to take it, BNL could not have played worse in the next. Edgewood’s Karis Klein powered a quick 9-1 burst, and the Stars were never a factor. Arthur couldn’t watch.

“After being so close that first set, then come in back and losing – I don’t even know what the score was,” Arthur said. “Honestly, I stopped looking when they were up 10. I let them play it out and we would regroup.”

That dismal performance was not exactly the best springboard for a turnaround, yet here they came. Waggoner made a super save at the end of a scramble play, finding open court in desperation when the set play broke down en route to a 10-6 lead, Kern and Brynlea Bennett knocked down kills, and Kern hit the sideline with a shot for a 24-22 lead. Bennett finished off the set with a smack off a blocker at the net.

BNL’s Haley Deckard directs the ball over Edgewood blockers at the net.

That was one set. BNL wasn’t through. In set 4, tied at 23-23, Bennett bounced down another kill and Kendall Nisley scored the set point. Momentum had switched sides, even if the teams don’t do that any more (one of the COVID rules).

“We came out too confident,” Edgewood coach Beth May said. “We should have known they weren’t going to let us take that third set. I knew that, they didn’t play like that. I knew they would come out to fight.”

BNL never trailed in the fifth. The Stars took command with four straight points for an 8-4 advantage, capped by Haley Deckard’s service ace, Waggoner scored twice with her patented push to the corner, and Kern blasted another huge kill for an 11-7 lead in the final race to 15.

Ahead 12-10, BNL clinched with Deckard’s kill, an Edgewood hitting error, and Bennett’s bop off a blocker.

“That shows a lot of leadership, when you have girls that can come back,” Arthur said. “It sucks to be down 2-0 and it’s super easy to throw in the towel and move on. That wasn’t going to happen.

BNL’s Brynlea Bennett skies for a spike at the net. Bennett totaled 10 kills.

“Our girls play really well when we’ve got the crowd behind us. That energy just radiates through our team. We want people to know we’re fighters. I’m so proud that people are starting to know this team will fight until we win.”

Bennett had 10 kills, Kern totaled 9 plus 6 blocks. Deckard had 16 digs, Waggoner added 13 assists and four kills, most of those done with court sense and vision rather than pure power.

“She’s probably the smartest player we have,” Arthur said of her sophomore in the middle of the action. “She’s one of the most reliable teammates we have when it comes to putting the ball where the weakest player is.

“Sometimes they get caught up in overthinking plays. If everyone does their job, we can get the job done. Never once did we look tired. We’ve worked so hard to play until the end.”

Kaiden Harrington had 17 kills, Aida May totaled 39 assists and 25 digs, and Gracie Farmer added 8 kills for Edgewood (3-3).

BNL will visit Bloomfield on Tuesday.