BAINBRIDGE -- The Cloverdale volleyball team used a deeper bench and sharper play Thursday night as they traveled to county rival North Putnam and came away with a three-game win, 25-20, 25-14, 25-20.
Coming into Thursday, the Clovers had a much deeper squad than the Cougars. The Clovers have 12 players listed on the varsity roster, all of whom see some amount of regular playing time. The Cougars, by contrast, have seven regular varsity players.
This gap was even wider Thursday, as the Clovers returned seniors Kristen Schroer and Erica Lotz, who had been out several weeks with injuries.
"My two seniors are back now, so I have more options in terms of being able to move people around, and that feels really good," said CHS coach Kathy Moore. "It was nice for us because I was able to sub and play a lot of people get the two who haven't played for the last four weeks in and get them a little playing time."
"Obviously (being short-handed) was a factor," Cougar coach Michelle Spencer said. "It didn't happen until late in practice yesterday, so we didn't have a chance to practice anything. We did a walkthrough on the lineup, but when you lose somebody who's not even missed a minute of game play through the season so far, obviously that's going to impact what happens on the floor."
Spencer did not use the injury as an excuse, though.
"That's not an excuse for the mistakes that we made tonight," she said. "We made mistakes that we shouldn't be making at this point in the season. I don't make any excuses for a lot of the things we did tonight."
Game one was back and forth early, with no large runs until the Clovers put together a five-point run that took them from down one, to leading 17-13.
The squads traded small runs until the Clovers got a side-out to go up 22-20. From there, senior Ashley Koosman served the final three points, capturing the game with an ace.
Game two started even better for Cloverdale, as they captured six of the first seven points.
A few more spurts put them up 13-7, then 19-8, then 23-10.
The Cougars countered with a small run of their own, drawing to 23-14, but the Cloverdale momentum was too much. The Clovers closed game two, 25-14, on a kill by Elizabeth Cheatham, who led CHS at the net with nine kills and six blocks.
In game three, the Cougars kept the action much closer, but CHS still held the lead most of the game. North drew even at 10, only to see CHS fire off seven straight behind the service of Allie Franklin.
The Cougars drew within two at 18-16, behind the service of Ashley Doyle, but Cloverdale went back to work, outscoring the Cougars down the stretch to win 25-20 and take the match. The final point came on a kill from Alesha Evans.
"They played well tonight," Moore said of her team. "We did a lot better on coverage tonight, in terms of covering our hitters, and digging up balls behind our blockers. I feel like it's coming."
Even in victory, though, the coach found things to work on.
"We need to still work on our serving. I hate missing serves, and we miss more than I want to miss," Moore said.
"I thought Kristin McCammon had a really good night hitting tonight," she continued. "When you're on, you're on, and she was on tonight."
For her part, Spencer struggled to find answers for her team's problems.
"There were some plays where (the injury) definitely had an impact, but overall tonight, I don't think that's what was the deciding factor," she said.
Both coaches turned their attention to next week and the upcoming run toward the postseason.
"We've got a tough schedule coming up next week," Moore said. "We've got Rockville at home on Monday and then South Putnam at home on Tuesday. I know South Putnam is a much-improved team this year.
"And then the next two weeks are just packed full, and then it's the end of the season, just like that and we're into sectionals," she continued. "It just goes so fast."
Both teams have the weekend off, a factor especially important for North, with Logan Doyle's status will remains up in the air.. Spencer said Doyle's is "questionable" beginning with next Tuesday's game with Monrovia.
"Next week's a big week; we have two conference games, so we're hoping we can get her back," Spencer said. "We play Monrovia on Tuesday and Greencastle Thursday, so it's kind of a busy week."
The next step for all volleyball teams is to begin thinking about sectionals, which open Oct. 16.
"This is the time of year when you want to really start focusing in on improving the small things, getting rid of the mental mistakes and just taking it step by step, so that you're at the peak of your season at the end when it's most important," Moore said.
"So that's what we're going to be focusing on now these next couple of weeks -- continual improvement and working to peak at the right time," she concluded.
The Clovers (9-8, 2-2 WCC) host Rockville at 6 p.m. Monday. The Cougars visit Monrovia at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
At North Putnam
|Cloverdale||25 25 25|
|North Putnam||20 14 20|
Kills -- Cheatham 9, McCammon 7, Koosman 4, Evans 4, Skiles 3, Schroer 2 (CHS), Green 4, Alles 2, Tippin 2, A. Doyle 1, McGaughey 1 (NP)
Assists -- Skiles 11, Sparks 9, Lotz 4 (CHS), Wendling 7 (NP)
Points -- Skiles 11, Koosman 8, McCammon 8, Evans 8, Shepherd 3, Franklin 3, Sparks 2, Lotz 1 (CHS), A Doyle 9, Alles 6, Wendling 6, McGaughey 2, Green 1, Tippin 1 (NP)
Aces -- McCammon 4, Skiles 3, Koosman 3, Evans 1 (CHS), Wendling 1, Green 1, A Doyle 1, Tippin 1 (NP)
Blocks -- Cheatham 6 (3 stuffs) (CHS)
Digs -- Koosman 20, Shepherd 19, McCammon 14, Franklin 7 (CHS)
|Cloverdale||25 18 11|
|North Putnam||19 25 15|
Next match -- Cloverdale hosts Rockville at 6 p.m. Monday. North Putnam travels to Monrovia at 6 p.m. Tuesday.