The Cloverdale Clovers swept both the junior varsity and varsity county tournaments, regaining the title after their six year winning streak was snapped last year when South Putnam won the tournament.
The Clovers knocked off the defending champion Eagles 25-21 and 25-9 before beating the host North Putnam Cougars 25-23 and 25-15.
Cloverdale head coach Kathy Moore had wanted to see her team get back on top of the heap. Drawn against the Eagles to start the day, there were some concerns about their opponents.
"We were pretty worried about them. They have a couple of real hard hitters and we were concerned about a couple of players who hit the ball real well. They played us point for point in game one but we were able to pull it through. It was important to get that first set out of the way. "
After a strenuous first set against the holders, the Clovers ratcheted up the intensity and blasted the Eagles out of the tournament with style. They then got a chance to sit back and watch as North Putnam knocked off Greencastle in two sets to set up the final.
Before that contest went on, Cloverdale's JV squad beat Greencastle in two sets to win the JV county tourney, setting up the stage for the final.
The start was all Cloverdale as North Putnam came out misfiring. The Clovers gathered a quick 10-3 lead as the Cougars had trouble handling the hard hitting visitors.
The first set then began to settle in to a back and forth affair, with a plethora of official's whistles breaking up play. Neither side was able to build up any momentum, a mixture of frustration and mistakes ailing both squads.
Toward the end of the set, Cloverdale began to look unnerved as the Cougars made a furious late rally, scoring nine of the last 13 points to bring the score to 24-23 before an errant serve from Morgan Robinson secured the final point for the visiting Clovers, much to the relief of the green clad fans in attendance.
The serving that had been one of the better aspects of the Cougar season suddenly failed them in the second set.
Neither side could break away early in the second. Long rallies were the rule as neither the Cougars nor Clovers wanted to concede any point or take too many gambles.
Cloverdale had settled in but found it hard to break down the Cougar defense. It was the Cougars, instead, that were beating themselves.
Anytime North Putnam gained possession, their serving was not up to the task at hand, giving the ball back faster than they could get it back.
This flaw allowed a tight 10-8 contest to explode out to a 20-11 advantage for the Clovers, one they would not allow to slide away again. It took three tries for Cloverdale to secure the championship point, but when the Cougars hit a shot wide at 24-15, it mattered little as the Clovers celebrated a successful return to the top.
After pictures were taken, it was off to the pool for the victorious Clovers while Moore sat to reflect on the event.
"It's very sweet. The kids have been working hard and I told them that this would be a goal of ours, that I wanted us to have the opportunity to win that trophy and we wanted the chance to jump in the pool up here because that's one of our benefits. [North Putnam] is so kind to let us do that up here."
With North Putnam as the opposition, there was some added motivation for Moore's squad.
"It's always fun when a former coach and player of yours is your arch rival and I really enjoyed that. It's a tribute to Jill (Schreiber) and how hard she works up here, trying to build her own program."
"North Putnam has improved this year and they are working hard. I want to give them a lot of credit for digging up just about everything we threw at them," an impressed Moore said. "They took it to us in that first game but we pulled it through and that's always a big plus for us."
Coach Schreiber was more subdued about her squad's performance.
"We never really played to our level. We always play to the level of our opponents. If our opponents are bad, we play them bad. If they are great, we play great. We have not learned yet to win. It's easier to lose and we've talked about this. Winning takes a lot more effort. We're just not there yet."
"Our goal was to come in and win the county tournament. We were just ahead of ourselves. For the first time, I think we came in too confident in that first game and kind of had to take a step back. Against Cloverdale, we just weren't ready," Schreiber added.
Cloverdale has now beaten all three county squads, though it will still have to play North and South Putnam in regular season play. They're contests that are still on Moore's mind.
"We play at South and they always try and bring their A game to us. It's a rivalry. I expect it to be a hard match. We play at North and it will be our first annual Breast Cancer Awareness match. It's a big match for us there because it's also a conference game. They're both big matches."
Much like Moore, Schreiber has to re-play the same two squads in conference play later this season.
"I think so," Schreiber said when asked whether or not the Cougars could use the win Saturday over Greencastle to their advantage. "I think we'll be OK playing against Cloverdale also. We'll be ready for revenge. That is our Breast Cancer Awareness match. "
"I think we can still comeback and get our goal for the conference this season of where we want to be at. We'll see."
At North Putnam
Putnam County Volleyball Tournament
Cloverdale 25 25
South Putnam 21 9
Greencastle 21 20
North Putnam 25 25
Cloverdale 25 25
North Putnam 23 15