Tuesday night, the Lady Rebels displayed their collective backbone at the Dickie Warren Dome, climbing out of a major hole to post a 23-25, 20-25, 25-22, 25-17, 15-8 league win over homestanding Sullivan Central.
The win kept South (16-9, 7-0) perfect inside the conference, but it was anything but easy for the Lady Rebels.
“It looked rough, it did,” said South floor leader and libero Meredith St. Clair. “But after we lost the second game, we started being more for each other and encouraging each other. We started letting points go and that really helped us push through those hard points when it got tough.
“First thing we had to do was clean up our side of the court, and we did that.”
South looked like anything but a league leader early, falling behind by as many as 10 points in the first game and staring at a 2-0 deficit soon thereafter. But the Lady Rebels hung together behind the net play of Katie Watson (15 kills) and Maddie Townsend (11 kills), and of course the play of the intense St. Clair.
A senior, St. Clair finished with a whopping 52 digs to keep South alive.
“Fifty-two digs is amazing,” said 20-year South coach Wendy Ratliff. “Meredith gets a lot of things done and she’s kind of the spirit of our team. She gets after people — a little bit redneck, but it’s good.”
After clawing back to take the third game, South roared out to a 19-4 lead in the fourth to serve notice that it had no intention of lying down.
JAYNE, COMPTON SHINE
With left-handed Makkenzie Compton serving with authority, the Lady Rebels won the first five points of the decisive game and never trailed thereafter, although Central (12-9, 5-3) did get to within one point twice.
Anytime the Lady Cougars threatened, it seemed that Abbey Jayne made a big play at the net, often landing finesse drop shots to vacant spots on the floor.
Jayne, a junior outside hitter, provided a game-high 21 kills as well as 20 digs.
“Abbey really stepped up for us,” said Ratliff, who got 28 assists from freshman setter Olivia DeLung. “They kind of shut Maddie down a little bit and that’s when Abbey really came on and had a big game.”
Central had a chance to really jumble the Three Rivers standings, but the Lady Cougars just couldn’t close the deal.
“That’s kind of been our MO this season — to get out big and win the first two games but then get extended to a fifth-game set,” said Central coach Logan Kemp. “We just can’t seem to figure out how to win it in three (games).
“Give South the credit. They’ve got a really good program and in the end I think they wanted it more than we did.”
Alyssa Giles had 16 kills and 30 digs to pace Central, which counted 42 assists from setter Laiken Hoback.