CLAY CITY -- The final outcome wasn't what the South Putnam Eagles were hoping for on the road at Clay City on Thursday evening, but some valuable lessons were learned by the Eagles and coach Lindsey Blackman.
The Eagles dropped the first two sets of the match 25-15, 25-20 and could have easily gone through the motions in the third set. However, the Eagles led for most of the set and battled the Eels tooth-and-nail before Clay City scratched out the deciding game, 34-32.
The shorthanded Eagles were also without starting senior, Rachel Egold, who missed the match due to illness, but Blackman was able to get an extended look at freshman, Leanna Masters in the front row.
"We were basically without two girls tonight," Blackman commented. With Rachel out, Leeanna did a really good job tonight."
The one thing that did bother the Eagles coach was a slow start that put South Putnam behind the proverbial eight ball from the beginning.
"We got behind early like we did in our first game," Blackman said. "We were able to come back in the other one, but I told the girls that we aren't always going to be able to do that. We need to come out and put the other team on its heels."
Both of the first two games were closer through the midway point of the set before Clay City was able to pull away late.
The Eels were ahead just 11-10 in the first game before stringing together a pair of service aces from Shelby Hane and a kill from Kelly McCullough to open a 15-10 advantage. The Eels then used some more Eagles' problems with the serve receive to pull away to a 22-12 lead on the way to a first game win.
"We served the ball well tonight," interim coach Brady Oberholzer commented. "We served with power and (South Putnam) wasn't able to get into an attack. Even in the final game we were serving to win the point instead of just trying to keep the ball in play."
In the second game, South Putnam got a kill apiece from Masters and Brooke Boetjer to take an early 5-3 advantage. Ashley Wombles, who had seven kills and three aces to her credit, stuck a block against the Eels to pull the Eagles ahead to 12-9. She then added two of her service aces to give South Putnam a 16-14 lead.
From there however, Clay City got back-to-back aces from Lynsey Higgins and another from Olivia Schindler to give the Eels their first lead since early in the game. Katelyn Sibbitt blasted a kill to get the Eagles back within 23-20, but the Eels got a kill from Hane and an Eagles hitting error gave Clay City a two set lead, 25-20.
The Eagles weren't going to let the match go without a fight, however.
Wombles had a pair of early kills as the match remained a seesaw battle early at 10-10.
Emily Dabkowski's kill pushed the Eagles ahead 17-14 and the Eagles pulled away to a 22-16 lead on an ace by Wombles.
Clay City regained its footing with a pair of aces from Kelly McCullough, who had a game-high nine kills with five aces and three blocks. Clay City gained a tie at 24-all as LaKyla Cook blocked a kill attempt.
Both teams had chances to win the game as Hane served up an ace, but then committed a service error at 28-all. Boetjer's kill gave the Eagles a 30-29 lead, but South was whistled for carrying the ball on the next play to even the score at 30-all.
With the Eagles leading 32-31, the Eagles were called for a rotation error before they served, which evened the score again at 32-32. From there, an Eagles hitting error gave the Eels match point and an ace ended the contest.
The loss evens the Eagles' record at 1-1 overall and South Putnam hosts its invitational on Saturday.
At Clay City
Clay City 25 25 34
S.Putnam 15 20 32
Next match -- South Putnam hosts an invitational on Saturday while Clay City hosts Cloverdale on Tuesday.