By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — BREMEN — One big misunderstanding, a host of service errors and a red-hot opponent conspired Saturday afternoon to end Madison-Grant's volleyball season.
The sixth-ranked Argylls (26-10) fought through three heavily contested sets but ultimately couldn't solve Hammond Bishop Noll in a 25-22, 25-21, 25-23 loss in the Class 2A semistate semifinals.
"We had a serious discussion about kind of willing ourselves to win," Madison-Grant coach Bob Holloway said. "It didn't work out today. I thought our effort was good, we just didn't execute."
The Argylls took a 20-16 lead in the third set and appeared to be starting the same sort of rally that led them to the regional title. Madison-Grant lost the first two sets on Tuesday against Muncie Burris but stormed back with three straight wins to reach the state's elite eight round.
On Saturday, however, the Argylls couldn't hold on to the lead.
Bishop Noll rallied to within 23-21 when the match's most unusual sequence occurred. Holloway turned to the official nearest his bench and asked how many substitutions his team had made in the set. The answer came back as 16, meaning Madison-Grant still had two subs remaining.
Holloway then began discussing his options with his assistants. After the Warriors scored the next point to cut the deficit to 23-22, Holloway sent in a sub, and the same official then told him that was his 19th substitution.
A lengthy conversation ensued during which Holloway repeatedly asked why he'd been told he'd made 16 subs just moments earlier. After the debate ended, Bishop Noll was awarded a point and the set was tied.
"I don't know how that can happen," Holloway said, noting three of four coaches in the area — including himself — had heard the initial answer of 16.
The Warriors immediately capitalized with a pair of kills from junior Carly Cappello to end the match.
Many of the other problems for the Argylls were self-induced.
Bishop Noll led 20-18 in the first set then scored four of its final five points on service errors by Madison-Grant. The Argylls finished with 13 service errors overall.
The Warriors were playing further back in serve return — as much as seven feet at times — and Holloway said his players did not do a good enough job adjusting.
"We just didn't execute our serves very well," he said. "We cut back on the errors (in the third set), but we didn't execute well."
The finish to the first set actually gave Madison-Grant confidence. The Argylls counted on improved serving and felt like they were playing as well or better than the Warriors in other areas.
But the second set played out almost as a replay of the first.
Madison-Grant fell behind 10-4 but rallied to take a 17-15 lead. The Warriors answered with a four-point run to regain control, and the Argylls pulled as close as 22-21 before Bishop Noll served out the set.
"They served extremely well," Holloway said. "That was probably the difference in the match. They executed their serves, and we didn't."
Cappello led the Warriors with 19 kills, and Asya Hobbs added nine. Madison-Grant senior Jessica Hull had 16 kills in the final match of her high school career, and freshman Chloe Stitt added 10. Senior Bethani Herniak added five blocks, and freshman Kenzie Stitt had 11 assists.
The Argylls lose five seniors — including Kayla Martin, Ballie Havens and Kayla Stanley — but also have several young players returning next season.
"I don't know if we're a young team or an old team," Holloway said. "All I know is we're a team. We'll see what happens (next year). We do have some talent coming back. You just never know."
One thing is certain, the current crop of Argylls did an excellent job upholding the program's recent tradition. Madison-Grant had won 33 and 34 matches in the previous two seasons, but it had never reached the semistate round until this fall.
"I'm really proud of the progress we made," Holloway said. "At the beginning of the year, there was a tremendous amount of pressure on this team. They put a tremendous amount of pressure on themselves. But they really came through."