Nothing will relax a team like building a big lead early.
That was just what the South Putnam volleyball team did on its way to a three-game win over Covenant Christian Tuesday night, building nine and 10 point leads to open the first two games of the match. The Eagles rode these big leads to a 25-13, 25-7, 25-23 victory over the Warriors.
"We were very relaxed, and we were last night, too," said Eagle coach Jill Newton. "So this is two consecutive games that we've been playing together as a team. Everybody's been communicating. Everybody's playing relaxed, and we're just really playing at the level that I want us to be playing."
From there, the Eagles cruised to a game one win. Freshman Brittany Burdge got the final kill from an assist by Stanifer.
Newton credited the good play to good communication from her team.
We were talking. We were communicating with each other -- everybody was talking," Newton said.
The second game opened with more of the same. The Warriors opened with the serve, but the Eagles got the point and the side-out. Then Stanifer went to work again, running off another nine in a row, including three consecutive aces.
At night's end, Stanifer had 24 service points, nearly one-third of her team's entire point total for the evening.
Unlike game one, though, the Eagles kept the heat on the Warriors. Oceaia Boetjer came to serve next, scoring four straight, including two aces. Next came Shelby Johnston, who got five in a row, two of which were aces.
Before Johnson's service ended with a long serve, the Eagles were up 20-3.
The Warriors put together a few points, but the Eagles ultimately won 25-7.
Serve-receive was not so good last night. It was tonight, although we were doing all the serving (early)," said Newton. "But we just played together. We were getting hits."
It seemed like a foregone conclusion that South Putnam would win game three, but Covenant Christian still had some fight in them.
After Stanifer opened the game with an ace, the Warriors got the side-out to tie the score at one. Much of game three was trading points, a fact just a little surprising to anyone who had watched the first two games.
The game was tied on 10 different occasions, with the largest run of the game coming when the Eagles went from down 12-13, to up 18-13 behind the service of -- Who else? -- Stanifer.
But Covenant came back with four points of their own, to draw within one.
The matched remained tight, with the Warriors regaining the lead at 23-22. From there, though, the Eagles got the side-out and closed out the match on two serves from Liz Mink.
Newton said she finally saw her team reaching the potential she has believed they had all along.
"Things that we were talking about that we need to do, we were finally doing and doing it consistently," said Newton.
Newton was particularly impressed with the play of sophomore Katelyn Sibbitt, who had been slumping before Tuesday.
"I thought everybody played well," Newton said. "The one that kind of stands out that I think has kind of been in a little bit of a funk, is Katelyn Sibbitt has started to play to her potential. She is passing very well in the back row. She is becoming more confident. She is starting to speak up and call the ball like I want her to. She really impressed me tonight."
Stanifer led the Eagles in points (24), aces (5) and assists (15). Mink was the kills leader, with 15.
Defensively, Boetjer led with 13 digs, and Johnston led with three blocks.
On Monday evening, the Eagles had another good outing, defeating Southmont 25-20, 28-26, 25-16.
"We had a great night," Newton said. "The girls have been struggling with serving and tonight were 97 percent from the service line.
"We also have had the tendency to sit back and allow the other team back into the game, but I felt like we continued to really attack the ball throughout the entire match," Newton added. "This was a great win tonight."
South Putnam (8-6) will play in the Shakamak Invitational at 9 a.m. Saturday.
At South Putnam
|Covenant Christian||13 7 23|
|South Putnam||25 25 25|
Points -- Stanifer 24, Boetjer 8, Johnston 7, Mink 6, Sibbitt 4, Miller 3
Aces -- Stanifer 5, Boetjer 3, Johnston 2, Miller 1, Mink 1, Sibbitt 1
Kills -- Mink 9, Boetjer 7, Johnston 4, Trauner 4, Burdge 4, Stanifer 3
Assists -- Stanifer 15, Miller 5
Digs -- Boetjer 13, Johnston 9, Sibbitt 4, Stanifer 3, Trauner 1, Burdge 1, Mink 1
Blocks -- Johnston 3, Mink 2, Trauner 1, Burdge 1
|Covenant Christian||24 25 15|
|South Putnam||25 16 13|
Next match -- The Eagles travel to the Shakamak Invitational at 9 a.m. Saturday.
At Southmont (Monday)
|South Putnam||25 28 25|
|Southmont||20 26 16|
Points -- Stanifer 15, Mink 9, Johnston 8, Sibbitt 7, Boetjer 6, Miller 5
Aces -- Stanifer 2, Johnston 1, Boetjer 1, Miller 1, Sibbitt 1
Kills -- Johnston 7, Mink 6, Boetjer 6, Stanifer 1
Assists -- Stanifer 10, Miller 9,
Digs -- Johnston 14, Boetjer 6, Sibbitt 6, Mink 1, Miller 1
Blocks -- Mink 3, Johnston 3, Stanifer 3, Boetjer 3