GREENCASTLE -- Thursday night was a big night for Putnam County volleyball.
With South Putnam traveling to North Putnam and Cloverdale heading to Greencastle, there was a chance for any of the four squads to make a statement not only within the county, but in the West Central Conference as well.
Inside a steamy McAnally center, the Varsity/Junior Varisty doubleheader was dominated by the Clovers, who swept the Tiger Cubs 25-23 and 25-22 in the JV contest and 28-26, 25-10 and 25-17 in the varsity portion.
While the attention was on the JV battle on the court, problems were brewing in the second tier of the gymnasium.
Greencastle senior Braden Amis suffered a knee injury while warming up, knocking her out of the contest. It was not the kind of start that Greencastle coach Liz Spencer had in mind.
"I don't think it effected the team as a whole," Spencer said. "I'm sure it did effect the person who replaced her in the starting lineup. It hurts for her because she is a senior, so you don't want her to waste any time on the sideline."
The match itself started with both sides cautious and uptight. Even the fans watching seemed to be a little slow in their reactions as both sides slugged it out in the first set.
Neither Greencastle or Cloverdale could take the initiative and keep it. A rally from the Clovers would be answered by the Tiger Cubs. A point for the hosts was immediately gained back by the visitors.
By the time the scores read 20-19 in favor of Cloverdale, the energy in the building began to finally build as first the Clovers and then the Tiger Cubs began a stretch of point and counterpoint when the scores were tied at 23-all.
The end of the first set finally came when Greencastle failed to keep in a late shot at 27-26 that, from several perspectives, may or may have not been in play. It was a bit of luck that went the Clovers' way, something both coaches had a similar thought process about it.
"Under the circumstances, we shouldn't have put ourselves in a position for that to be a deciding factor," Spencer remarked. "We should have made plays earlier to not even be at that point."
Cloverdale coach Kathy Moore had a comparable view on the matter.
"I'm a firm believer that you make your own luck. I never count on luck, but I know that you can make your luck if you're playing well, just because the effort is there," Moore said. "Of course, a little luck doesn't hurt," she added with a grin.
Luck would not be needed in the second set as the Clovers settled in and promptly drilled the Tiger Cubs 25-10.
Cloverdale started off with a bang and never gave the home side any shot of being in the middle stanza by cutting any attempts at rallies to no more than two points at a time.
As the third set began, Greencastle showed signs of life that had been missing in the second set and began the best series of plays in the match. It was identical to the first set with the added spice of two teams playing at their best level of the night.
Cloverdale took an early lead and was once again met with stiff resistance by a home side trying to get back into the match.
As the scores creeped closer to the 20 point mark, Cloverdale finally turned on the gas and ran out the last six points to complete the sweep.
For coach Moore, it was a good sweep to get, but things still need tinkered with.
"We still struggle with making too many consecutive errors. If we want to go anywhere this season, we really have to work on that," Moore said. "Consecutive errors against a really aggressive team will kill you in a hurry. The girls did mesh together in the second and third sets. They talked, hustled and didn't have as many mental errors.
"Greencastle is an improved team. They really hit the ball well, served well tonight. I give Greencastle a lot of credit. They played everything. They tried to dig up everything and hustled to the ball. It was a good job by Greencastle," Moore added.
Coach Spencer is still looking for the right things from her team.
"We're a young team with a new coach and a new system. We still haven't settled on a squad yet. Everything takes a while to gel together. They haven't quit. They keep coming to practice with a good attitude and make adjustments. We're finding out our strengths," Spencer said.
"I know the kids are playing hard. They're playing as hard as they think they can play, but there's another gear they can play in. And until they can find that gear or we can force that gear out of them, things are going to be like that," Spencer added when asked about the difference in her squad's play between the first and third sets.
The immediate future for both teams is one filled with strong tests.
"We play at the Barr-Reeve tournament Saturday morning. We play the home school first and traditionally they are very strong. We have a strong tournament this weekend. It will be a long day, but we keep trying to get better every day. That's all we can do," Spencer said, referencing the No. 9 ranked side in Class A.
"Tuesday night we face a really tough Owen Valley team. We haven't beaten them in years. They're tough. They've been winning straight matches the last two weeks. They're a big opponent. I'd really like to get a win there," Moore said.
Cloverdale 28 25 25
Greencastle 26 10 17