LIZTON --" Momentum is everything in volleyball, and late in game 4 Thursday night at the Tri-West Sectional final match, it looked like Cloverdale was running short of it.
Although they Clovers led the match two games to one and were only a few points from a second straight sectional championship, Covenant Christian seemed to have the momentum. The Clovers had limped to a game three victory, and it looked like they might lose game four. The possibility of a winner-take-all game five did not look too appetizing.
But, facing a 25-26 deficit and game point for the Warriors, the Clovers got the sideout they needed to tie it back up at 26.
On the next point, Erica Lotz set up Kristin McCammon for the go-ahead kill. They then captured the title on a Kayla Shepherd ace.
The Clovers were, once again, sectional champions. They took the finals 25-19, 20-25, 25-20, 28-26. Cloverdale improves to 18-14 for the year.
“I’m just very relieved,” Clover coach Kathy Moore said. “Sometimes when you’re a reigning champion it feels like there’s more pressure to come back and do it again.
“It just took forever, and Covenant Christian kept fighting back and fighting back and fighting back,” she said of the final game. “We were making errors and hitting the ball out. I told the girls, ‘You can’t sit back on your heels. You have to play aggressively.’ And we still didn’t do it but we came out and won anyway.
The match began with both teams looking a little nervous about the finals. There were several sideouts caused mostly be simple mistakes.
The Clovers, though, seemed to shed the nerves first, making a pair of runs on the service of Ashley Koosman and Shepherd, who closed out the game with four points, including two aces.
In game two, it was the Warriors’ turn for a run and they opened the game 7-1. The Clovers mounted a long comeback, finally tying it back up at 20-20, but from there Covenant reeled of five straight to tie the match at one game apiece.
“I have to give Covenant Christian a lot of complements because they just don’t quit. They played up everything. We were trying to hit line on them, we were trying to hit cross-court on them, we were trying to tip on them and they just picked up everything.”
One problem for the Clovers came in the form of Kimberly Smith, a front-line player for the Warriors who stood several inches taller than everyone else on the court.
“I knew we’d have a chance if we could just get their big middle (Smith) out of the rotation. When she’s in the rotation, she makes it really hard,” Moore said. “She has such a long wingspan that she can cover a lot of court. You have to go around her. When you have to go around her, it limits what you can do in the middle and that’s an important part of our offense.”
The Clovers did a better job of neutralizing this factor in game three, and they put together several nice runs to go up23-11.
But then the points started getting harder. The Warriors took nine of the next 10 points to make it 24-20. The Clovers, though, got the one point they needed to get the 25-20 win.
Game four was tight, with 10 ties before the Alyssa Franklin put together four straight points to build what looked like a commanding 22-18 lead.
Facing elimination, though, the Warriors had another spurt in store. Another improbably run gave Covenant a 24-23 lead and game point. Two points later, the Clovers had game point. Two points later still, the Warriors had game point again.
That was when Cloverdale got the three points it needed to capture the match and the sectional title.
“I’m really proud of the girls and I’m so happy for our school and our program,” Moore said. “It’s so nice to get another one. It took so long that to get another one is sweet.
“I’m happy for the seniors. It was important for them,” she added.
“This whole tournament has been difficult,” she said. “Everybody has played their hearts out. So many of the games have gone five, they’ve been close, they’ve been extra points. It’s just been a great tournament. I’m just pleased that we were able to come out on top.
“After we beat Speedway on Tuesday, we really felt as though we could win this tournament again,” Moore continued.
One advantage the coach thought her team had at Tri-West. After winning the sectional on the same court last year, they have a lot of good feelings playing there.
“We like this court. We win here. That’s the underlying feeling the kids have, and if you have that confidence, then the rest of it will come along,” Moore said.
The Clovers advance to face Linton-Stockton at noon Saturday in the Forest Park Regional.
“I can’t imagine we’ll get up against any easier teams from now on,” Moore said. “We are very excited to continue practicing another week and we look forward to playing Linton in the Forest Park.”
The Clovers reached the finals against Covenant Christian by defeating Monrovia in four games 25-14, 25-21, 19-25 and 25-19.
Cloverdale fired on all cylinders early, with Koosman attacking the net off of sets from Sparks and Cheatham’s presence at the net was felt strongly on both sides of the ball.
In the third game, the Bulldogs tested the Clovers. The communication and speed that Cloverdale exhibited early, failed them in the third game. But when it looked like the Clovers could let the match slip away, the smiles returned as well as their solid play.
“It (emotion) is so important for this good of kids. When they are having fun and when their smiling; they’re loose and they playing well,” Moore commented.
Down the stretch in the fourth game, the Clovers received a lift from an ace from Sparks and a powerful kill from Whitney Bond. Koosman ended the game with one of her 17 kills in the game.
IHSAA Volleyball Sectional 46 Final
Cloverdale 25 20 25 28
Covenant Christian 19 25 20 26
Kills --" Koosman 17, McCammon 9, Schroer 6, Cheatham 6, Bond 5, Wiley 2, Evans 2
Assists --" Sparks 21, Lotz 9, Skiles 3
Points --" Franklin 11 (2 aces), Koosman 10 McCammon 10, Shepherd 8 (7 aces), Sparks 6 (1 ace), Lotz 5 (2 aces), Evans 1
Blocks --" Cheatham 7 (3 stuffs), Bond 5 (1 stuff), Koosman 3 (2 stuffs), Evans 3 (1 stuff), McCammon 2 (1 stuff), Schroer 1
Cloverdale 25 25 19 25
Monrovia 14 21 25 19
Kills --" Koosman 24, McCammon 5, Cheatham 4, Evans 2, Schroer 2, Bond 2, Wiley 1, Franklin 1.
Assists --" Sparks 15, Lotz 6, Skiles 4.
Points --" Franklin 14 (1 ace), McCammon 9 (2 aces), Sparks 8 (3 aces), Koosman 7 (two aces), Skiles 6 (two aces), Shepaherd 2, Lotz 2, Evans 1.
Blocks --" Cheatham 5 (3 stuffs), Evans 4, Koosman 3 (1 stuff), Bond 2, McCammon 2, Wiley 1.
Next match --" The Clovers advance to the Forest Park Regional, where they will face Linton-Stockton at 11 a.m. this Saturday.