Important? It doesn't get any more important than the playoffs, and the six seniors playing for North (11-4), remembering last year's loss to Middletown in the quarterfinals, clearly did not want their season and careers to end in the same way against the Knights (11-4).
"I could tell coming into the gym tonight that we wanted this game," said Long, one of those seniors. "It's the playoffs ... six of us are seniors, and we played like we wanted to win."
"They had lots of motivation," North coach Marc Cree said. "... Most of our players are seniors, and it could be their last game. There's a lot of motivation in a game like this."
Coming off a 15-5, 7-15, 15-8, 15-9 loss at Middletown last Wednesday that gave third place in the Monocacy Valley Athletic League to the Knights, the Hubs improved their passing, kept pressure on Middletown with their serving game and forced the Knights to beat them instead of beating themselves. Middletown failed to meet the challenge.
"I think North really wanted it a little more than us," Knights coach Jamie Pryor said. "They didn't want to lose two in a row like they did last year.
"They capitalized on our mistakes. We had a lot of mistakes, a lot of errors. We were out of our element ... and they wanted to beat us."
"We came in ready to win this time," Long said. "We had the confidence that we could win. We proved to ourselves before that we could play better than (last week), it was just a matter of playing as a team instead of as individuals."
Sophomore Ariel Keifer's four-point run - including three aces - gave North a 10-7 lead in Game 1 that the Hubs would not give up. Ashley Haywood added her own four-point run for a 14-9 lead.
Ashley Saylor's kill five plays later ended the game.
North took an 11-5 lead in Game 2, then watched as Middletown used Ashley Fox's six-point run to take a 14-11 lead. But the Knights missed on three game points, and North scrapped back with the help of aces from Staley and Saylor and mistakes from the Knights to take the game.
With Game 3 tied at 13-13, Katie Plume served the final two points for the Hubs. Nash blocked an errant Middletown pass for a 14-13 lead, and a service winner from Plume sealed the match.
"We didn't play well last week," Cree said. "The more important game was this one. It would have been nice to win (last week), but this was the one that really counted."
Saylor finished with 11 service points, while Keifer had seven for the Hubs.
Kristin Young had 18 assists, while Amber Holian and Cathy Phillips had seven kills and Phillips had seven blocks for the Knights. Jill Martin had six kills and four blocks, while Ashley Fox had five kills.