by Matt Antonic
It was a hyper-competitive match that was defined by stunningly long rallies by both sides. So it was only fitting that Club Northern Lights would use one to clinch the second set and the match over the KC Mavs on Saturday (26-24, 28-26).
The exciting back and forth sequence had coaches shouting, teammates clamoring and spectators screeching during 16 Elite power pool action at the Triple Crown NIT in Kansas City. For a Northern Lights squad that led for a majority of both sets, the win felt deserved. The team’s efforts to execute under pressure had paid off.
“We’ve been working on our team composure,” Northern Lights coach Adam Beamer said. “We’ve been working on, in our timeouts, remaining calm and getting our heart rates down and going down and doing the things we need to do.”
After an early morning loss to Texas Advantage was followed by a bounce back victory over Club Sunshine, Northern Lights needed to take care of business over the hometown KC Mavs to finish pool play on a high note.
“We were kind of able to pick up whatever came our way,” Northern Lights player Stella Swenson said. “We were calm and collected."
Northern Lights was successful at causing the Mavs to make fundamental mistakes, but both teams proved adept at keeping the ball in play, leading to incredible rally sequences. Both sets saw the scored tied at 24, only for Northern Lights to seal the deal, displaying a remarkable killer instinct in the process.
In the second set, four separate match point opportunities presented themselves. With the scoreboard reading 27-26, Northern Lights thrived under pressure once again and won the longest rally of the match.
For Beamer, the victories on Saturday felt like sweet justice. His club had been stricken by a COVID outbreak after the Show-Me qualifiers back in April. Beamer himself spent 12 days battling a high fever. When his club showed up to Omaha two weeks ago to compete, “we were shot,” he said.
“It’s been a lot of work just trying to get back.”
The resilience on display Saturday wasn’t surprising to Beamer. His club had already dealt with the difficulties of not being able to be together, to have to meet over Zoom and go weekend after weekend with no competition.
After the struggles in previous qualifiers, Beamer said he was honest with his team.
“I just tried to convince them that we aren’t back to where we think we are or want to be,” he said. “COVID took its toll. It was good to come back, two weeks later, and be able to play with more energy in the style of some of these other teams.”
With the nail-biting win, Northern Lights cements the momentum it had been building heading into Sunday. Swenson said team chemistry was a major factor in the victory, and that it gives the players belief that they can keep winning.
“It’s been great so far,” she said. “It’s been great competition for our team.”