OSSIAN – Bellmont volleyball coach Craig Krull is admittedly an emotional guy.
But Saturday’s regional championship against NorthWood would put even the least emotional person on a rollercoaster of feelings. When the Braves hit 15 in the fifth set to complete the improbable come-from-behind win after being down two sets to none, he threw his fists in the air, slammed his hat to the court floor and embraced his exuberant team.
“I go up and down with the team. I’m just yelling, ‘let’s go.’ I’m yelling at our crowd, and you could feel we were going to win,” Krull said. “There's every gamut of emotions going through your mind at this point.”
Bellmont beat Northwood 3-2 (20-25, 13-25, 25-18, 25-20, 15-6) to win the Class 3A Norwell regional championship at Norwell on Saturday and earn a semistate appearance with New Prairie on Nov. 2.
NorthWood, which finished the season 32-5, was on a 28-match winning streak and hadn’t dropped a single set since Sept. 3. The first two against the Braves looked on-brand to that, and NorthWood fans were already putting the raincoats back on for what they thought would be an early night.
The Braves, who already won one 5-set match earlier in the day with Angola, had other plans and the final three sets felt like a different game.
“I told them we were down 2-1 this morning and 2-0 tonight, so we have absolutely nothing to lose,” Krull said of his advice to his team prior to the third set. “If they’re going to beat us you got to go out there and play hard. Lose with dignity I say; don’t just give up, and luckily for them, they just dug a little deeper and found a way to break through and score.”
The Braves found momentum early in the condensed fifth set, jumping out to a 7-3 advantage thanks to NorthWood serving mistakes and a few Bellmont aces. Sophie Krull drilled a cross court kill to make it 8-5 followed by an Emma McMahon kill to force a NorthWood timeout.
“The fifth set is all about emotion,” Craig Krull said. “They called a timeout at five and I go, ‘we’re a third of the way there,’ but every single point matters because it kind of weighs on you that you don’t have the luxury to get to 25.”
Sophie Krull led Bellmont with 17 kills and added three block assists. Rachel McBride led in digs with 23 and contributed two aces, while Sarah Noonan also had two aces.
“Craziness,” McBride called the match. “We did not start well. Everyone in the gym knows it. We did not play ourselves the first two sets, and we knew we just had to turn it around or our season was over. I think we made the adjustments. We came out strong and it’s just so surreal.”
After NorthWood used an 11- 2 run to win the second set, Bellmont used an 18-11 run of their own in the third set to mount the comeback.
“It was just sheer determination because honestly we weren’t playing very well," Craig Krull said. "NorthWood was on the gas pedal the whole time, and luckily in that third set we kind of put a little chink in their armor, and then a lot of the touches they were getting were going for our points.”
Note: Lakewood Park Christian fell to Pioneer 3-1 in the regional semifinal, and Carroll fell 3-1 to McCutcheon in the regional semifinal.