Tri-West's front line of Aubrey Cook and Katie Groover controlled the net throughout the game, which resulted in an Eagles team that was reserved to play on its heels.
"We knew coming into it we would need to have our best effort and be on our 'A' game," SPHS head coach Lindsey Blackman said. "Not making excuses, but I'm sure the illnesses hit us at the wrong time. We had people missing practices, we had five people with fevers in the last two days, so it really knocked us back. Really stopped us from being intense in practice, which keeps you from having that intensity in the game.
"They're very skilled, from every position, but especially that No. 22 (Aubrey Cook) in the middle. We knew she was going to give us a game, so it was letting her get her points and beating everyone else and we couldn't do that," she added.
In the first set, the Eagles allowed Tri-West to attack the net and tip the ball into open places on the court. South Putnam took the lead early at 2-1 after a Rachel Egold ace, but watched it slip away after a Cook ace put Tri-West up 4-3.
South pulled within one at 8-9 after Leanna Masters and Ashley Wombles converted a block and a kill from Wombles. However, the Bruins were able to keep their lead, build on it and take the win at 25-12.
The second set is where South Putnam put up the toughest effort. Despite a touch first set loss and getting down early in the second, the Eagles fought their way back into it.
"We started off being passive, very passive and giving them tips, which is fine at times, but we never switched it up," Blackman commented. "We didn't be the aggressor like we did all season. In order to win, you have to be the aggressor and we stayed passive."
Katelyn Sibbitt took to the service line and recorded two aces and Dabkowski added another kill, but the surge stalled with the Bruins winning 25-18.
The lack of practice time and the effects of illness really showed themselves in the third set, where the Eagles looked physically and emotionally drained. South Putnam fell to Tri-West 25-10.
2009 marked Blackman's first year at the helm of the South Putnam volleyball program and despite the sting of a season ending loss, she is looking forward to some very special things for the program in coming years.
"I'm very proud of them," she said of her team. "I'm proud of the three seniors for setting the tone and giving us the leadership we need. I see bright things in our future. We got a couple of freshmen in the lineup, so that's good for us, and sophomores -- a crew of them that are ready to go. So, I really look forward to the future. It's sad for the seniors, but I look forward to the future."
The seniors Blackman spoke about are Katelyn Sibbitt, Rachel Egold and Taylor Goss. She acknowledged the impact the trio has had on the Eagles' program this season.
"You can't put words to explain what they meant to the program. They did all those little things -- leading by example, keeping their head up when they needed to and just showing the girls how to play the game," she concluded.
Tri-West went on to defeat Covenant Christian to gain the sectional title.
South Putnam 12 18 10
Tri-West 25 25 25