"Cougs keep control, beat NK"

"Volleyball, North Kitsap High School coach Jeff Campbell said, is a game of spurts.Thursday night, the Vikings didn't get enough of those spurts to beat Central Kitsap in a battle of Olympic League unbeatens at CK. The Cougars kept North's volatile offense under control to win in four games, 15-9, 13-15, 15-5, 15-11.The Cougars ran their league mark to a perfect 5-0 by playing more solidly more often in front of a loud, mostly partisan gallery.We're a great defensive team, said CK senior Ann Rayburn, who combined with Stephanie Brown and junior Allison Carroll to give the Cougs the offensive sparks they needed to set fire to the Vikings' upset hopes. We never really let them get control.We did have a few shaky stretches, added Central coach Gordy Bushaw, but we always managed to come out of them very quickly.The Cougars' defense prevented North - which hadn't lost a league game, let alone a match, coming into Thursday's set-to - from ever settling into its offensive rhythm. The linchpin of the Vikings' attack, sophomore Sheena Brundage, had just five kills after the first three games (she finished with 11), and the entire NK team had just four kills in the first game.By contrast, Stephanie Brown and Carroll had five Ks each in the opener.The big key is winning that first game, Campbell said, adding with a shrug, They got a spurt, and this game is all about spurts.The Cougs' key spurt came with North leading 3-2 in the fourth game. Senior Kim Finucan ran off nine straight service points, a stretch that included three of Rayburn's 17 kills (tying her for match honors with Stephanie Brown) and two more by Katie Bohannon.North could've packed it in, but instead nibbled away at the 11-3 lead, getting as close as 12-11 before giving up points on a hitting error and a service ace by CK's Tersha Brown.Both teams started celebrating when Brundage's back-row hammer sailed long, but appeared to graze Finucan on its way out. The officials first awarded the match point to the Cougars, bringing a storm of protest from the Viking players and coaches.Eventually, the refs decided North was entitled to a do-over, but took away the winning point anyway after assessing North assistant coach Clay Blackwood with a red-card penalty for dissent.We saw this team as one of our two main challenges, said Stephanie Brown, who also had two stuff blocks in the match. They're a good offensive team, but we play good defense. We knew if we started strong, we could control the game.North's game 2 victory started unpromisingly, as the Vikings fell behind 5-0 before scoring four straight (matching their longest spurt of the night). Stephanie Brown's stuff of Brundage put CK in seeming control at 12-9, but the Vikings whittled away, taking the lead back at 13-12 on Ashley Zygar's ace. Brundage scored the winner, her fourth kill of the game. Alice Wood also had four kills in the game and finished the match with nine.Bushaw said the Cougars' excellent floor coverage and strong block helped keep Brundage under control early, letting his team dictate the tempo.We tried to do that, he said. She's a heckuva player. We were fortunate that she never really got untracked.The two teams meet again Thursday, Oct. 24 at Poulsbo in what could be not only a battle for the league title but a tune-up for the West Central District tournament for both teams.Provided, that is, the spurts go their way between now and then. "

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