MEAD – Louisville’s defensive coverage on the court helped the Lions cover their necks with league medals on Thursday night.

Louisville captured third place in the East Central Nebraska Conference Tournament with a 25-23, 25-12 triumph over Auburn. The Lions kept the Bulldogs from piling up points on offense during the evening. Louisville made 36 digs in the match and put the brakes on many speeding Auburn kill attempts.

LHS head coach Megan Barnes said Louisville athletes knew the Bulldogs had the ability to create points in a hurry with their powerful attack. She said court coverage was a big part of the game plan entering the match.

“Our seniors led the conversation about that before we got here, and the girls were pretty determined to not let a ball hit the floor today,” Barnes said. “That was a big deal to them, and that was a big part of why we won. Auburn was able to get a couple of kills here and there, but our defense was really good the entire way.”

Team members made their pregame talk pay off on Mead High School’s court. Auburn collected 12 kills in game one but made just four kills in the second game.

“Our girls definitely came to play today,” Barnes said. “I’m really proud of them. They did a lot of good things and played with a ton of energy. It was a total team effort.”

Third-seeded Louisville (17-9) and fourth-seeded Auburn (15-11) went toe to toe in the opening stanza. Louisville roared ahead 12-6 after Faye Jacobsen, Cassidy Niemoth and Jade Biesterfeld made kills in the initial stretch. Auburn battled back to tie things at 15-15 on an ace from Carly Gardner.

The teams were tied five times before Louisville seized control. An Auburn hitting error snapped a 22-22 tie, and Skyler Pollock gave the Lions a critical point with an ace serve. Auburn pulled within 24-23 before Jacobsen connected on a kill off an AHS block attempt.

The Lions dominated the Bulldogs in game two. Jacobsen’s hard kill gave the team an early 9-4 lead, and Maddy Nolte’s second ace block of the day expanded the gap to 16-8. Jacobsen clinched the victory with a kill on match point.

Jacobsen ended the day with eight kills and nine digs and Niemoth registered six kills, two aces and six digs. Biesterfeld posted three kills and ten digs for the Lions, and Lea Kalkowski generated 17 assists, five digs, one ace and one kill.

Pollock collected three digs and finished 14-of-14 serving with three aces. Nolte made one kill and two ace blocks and McKenzie Norris chipped in three digs and one assist.

Louisville players received medals for their third-place finish after the match. Barnes and assistant coaches Bob Hupf and Amanda Zwiener gave the awards to all athletes on the court. They then gathered in Mead’s cafeteria for a group celebration.

Barnes said the Lions will use the tournament victory as a springboard for future success. The Lions will play Plattsmouth and DC West in a triangular on Tuesday and will close the regular season against Freeman Oct. 24. The team will play in the Subdistrict C1-2 Tournament at Platteview on either Oct. 28 or 29.

“This is definitely something that will give us a lot of confidence,” Barnes said. “Our goal coming into the tournament was to win it, but to be able to get third is something that will give the girls a lot of momentum too. I’m proud of the way they played today. This is big for us moving forward.”

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