BAINBRIDGE -- It's been a long time coming for the Cloverdale Clovers.
The four county schools have been playing for the Putnam County Championship since 1983, and after winning two of the first three, the Clovers had not raised the trophy since 1985. They had not even reached the finals since 1994.
So after her team defeated Greencastle 22-25, 25-20, 25-21 on Saturday, Clover head coach Kathy Moore was understandably excited.
"It's been 22 years since Cloverdale won this tournament," Moore said.
"We knew we could do it," Moore continued. "The kids relaxed. That's when they play their best."
The Clovers had to show this calm in both of their matches, as both North Putnam and the Tiger Cubs took them to deciding game threes.
Game one of the championship round was a game of spurts. Cloverdale led 2-0. Greencastle led 6-3. Cloverdale led 12-8. The Tiger Cubs led 19-14.
It was a game that could have gone either way, and it featured some sharp net play on both side of the floor. Ultimately, though, the Tiger Cubs built their lead and finished of the game behind the senior combo of Kelsey Hennette and Olivia Miller.
The combination of a Hennette set to a Miller spike was potent all day, but especially so late in game one, as three of the last seven GHS points came from the duo.
With a 1-0 lead in the match, the Tiger Cubs came out firing in the second game, building a 3-0 lead. However, the Clovers came right back to tie it.
When Kristin McCammon came up to serve for the Clovers with the score knotted at four, the Clovers grabbed control of game two. CHS fired off six straight points, including one McCammon ace, the make the score 9-4.
The two teams traded service for a while, with neither team on more than a four-point run. Hennette gave the Tiger Cubs some hope when she served two straight aces to bring her team within give, but her third went into the net.
The two squad continued to traded points and service down the stretch, with Cloverdale taking the game, 25-20, on a kill from Kaileigh Sparks. The match -- and the county title -- came down to one deciding game.
Game three was more of the same, with neither team ever taking a huge lead. The game was actually tied at nine different times.
The Clovers made the runs they really needed, though. They reeled off four-in-a-row to tie the score at 10. They got four more to make it 15-11. They broke an 18-all tie, adding three more to make it 21-18. From there, they could trade service all the way to the match win, taking game three 25-21.
"I thought everyone did their jobs," Moore said.
For the Clovers' junior class, this Putnam County Championship makes their fifth in a row. They won as seventh graders, eighth graders, twice in junior varsity and now this.
Across the net, Greencastle coach Trish Lowe was unhappy with the loss, but knew her team just came in a little tight, facing an opponent they beat in straight games within the last two weeks.
"I think anytime you play a team the second time, you have a little more internal drive or fear, so you put a little more pressure on yourself," Lowe said.
The Tiger Cubs opened the day by defeating South Putnam in two games. No stats were available from this contest.
"We had moments of brilliance, but volleyball is a mementum game. When we had it, we didn't take advantage of it," Lowe concluded.
The matches were hotly contested all day. All four teams came in with similar levels of success. It was just the Clovers who made their own breaks when they really needed them.
"More than other years in the recent past, all four teams were very closely matched," said Michelle Spencer, coach of host North Putnam. Cloverdale defeated the Cougars 25-21, 19-25, 25-13 in their preliminary game.
"Cloverdale did a nice job of finding weaknesses in our defense," Spencer said. "They have a well-rounded team that took advantage of every opening they had.
"I was happy with the way we played through most of the first two games," Spencer continued. "However, we fell apart in the third game and made way too many errors."
For the Clovers, the only downside to their championship was that two seniors, Kristin Schroer and Erica Lotz, missed the tournament with injuries.
"It's a team win. We're going to celebrate together," Moore said.
At North Putnam
Putnam County Tournament
|Cloverdale||22 25 25|
|Greencastle||25 20 21|
Preliminary No. 1
|North Putnam||21 25 13|
|Cloverdale||25 19 25|
Preliminary No. 2
Greencastle 2, South Putnam 0
Kills - Koosman 24, Cheatham 15, McCammon 10, Bond 4, Evans 4, Wiley 2
Assists - Skiles 21, Sparks 16
Blocks - Cheatham 9, Koosman 6, Evans 5
Stuffs - Cheatham 2, Koosman 2
Digs - Koosman 55, Franklin 41, McCammon 41, Skiles 31, Shepherd 27, Bond 21, Evnas 20, Sparks 19, Cheatham 16
Points - Sparks 16, Koosman 13, McCammmon 12, Franklin 11, Skiles 9, Evans 7, Shepherd 3
Aces - Sparks 4, Koosman 3, Skiles 3, Franklin 2, McCammon 1
Greencastle (championship match only):
Kills - Miller 18, Flint 6, Nobles 3, Lewis 2, Hennette 2
Assists - Hennette 11, Nobles 1, Land 1
Aces - Hennette 4, Sawyer 3, Nobles 2, Lewis 1
Kills - A. Doyle 8, McGaughey 5, L. Doyle 4, Alles 3, Green 1, Wendling 1
Assists - Wendling 15, Green 2, A. Doyle 2, Alles 1, L. Doyle 1, McGaughey 1
Blocks - Alles 2 solo 3 assists, Wendling 3 assist, Green 2 assist, L. Doyle 1 assist
Digs - L. Doyle 13, McGaughey 12, Green 10, A. Doyle 8, Alles 5
Aces - A. Doyle 2, Alles 1, L. Doyle 1, Wendling 1
No South Putnam stats available
Next match -- Cloverdale travels to Danville at 5:30 p.m. today. Greencastle hosts Edgewood at 6 p.m. today. South Putnam travels to Southmont at 6 p.m. today. North Putnam visits Crawfordsville at 6 p.m. Tuesday.