GREENCASTLE -- When a team is right on the cusp of winning or losing a match, the mental toughness of the squad will determine whether or not they make the big plays when they have to be made.
On Tuesday, Greencastle's volleyball squad just wasn't quite ready to assert itself on the floor as it fell in three sets to Southmont by scores of 19-25, 24-26 and 20-25. At times, though, the score flattered the visitors.
The opening set saw the Tiger Cubs stick with the Mounties through the early stages. Slowly, though, Southmont was able to string together two and three points at a time, something that Greencastle struggled to do throughout.
Without being able to hold serve, the back and forth action allowed Southmont to open a five-point lead midway through the first set and kept the hosts at arm's length in taking the set by six points.
Neither squad could take the initiative in the second set as the two sides were never separated by more than four points from beginning to end. Holding a 20-19 lead, the hosts suddenly wobbled, allowing Southmont to grab four points and take a 20-23 lead.
After a Greencastle timeout, it was then the Mounties who buckled, allowing the Tiger Cubs to draw level at 23 before Southmont was forced to also call timeout.
At this point, the home side had the chance to tie up the contest at one game apiece, but couldn't find a way to break down the Mounties, with costly errors enabling the visitors to retake the lead and eventually a two sets to none lead.
The Tiger Cubs then started off the third set with a purpose, coasting to an early 10-6 lead before the rug seemingly was pulled out from under them as the Mounties stormed back with a decisive 18-4 run. Sitting on the edge of defeat, Greencastle staved it off on six straight plays but an errant serve finally ended the match.
Even in losing, head coach Liz Spencer knows that the experience will catch up eventually.
"We're a relatively young team. We've got two freshmen playing a lot of time. We've got three seniors, but one of them didn't play last year. It's going to take a while to get together," Spencer said, a common thread for most of the teams in Putnam County this year.
"I thought our passing was much better than the other night. Brooke Buckner and Erika (Davies) passed the ball well. Kara (Birt) and Kandice (Phillips) picked up well in the middle. They were in the right positions. Right now, it's just all about serving and passing and cutting down errors."
Part of those growing pains include dealing with games that get away from the team.
"You know, volleyball is a game of runs and if you give up more than three points at a time, you dig yourself a pretty deep hole and that's what happened to us. It takes one bad pass, a miss-hit, a hitter hitting it out, not just any one thing but it could be several things."
There is little time for Greencastle to dwell on the loss as they play at Sullivan Wednesday. With such little down time, coach Spencer will be hoping for a short memory but a slightly different attitude.
"We can't play intimidated. You have to finally have the confidence in your skills and your teammate's skills to just relax and go out and play. Let it fly," Spencer said. "You can't hold back. Just don't be intimidated when we play."
Southmont 25 26 25
Greencastle 19 24 20
Next game -- Greencastle travels to Sullivan Wednesday for a Varsity/JV double header starting at 6 p.m.