GREENCASTLE -- County bragging rights -- and an oversized wooden paddle held by the most recent county champions -- were on the line in Tuesday's volleyball match between Cloverdale and South Putnam. And both stayed in the hands of the visiting Clovers, who already beat the Eagles once en route to its county championship earlier this season.
Cloverdale won 27-25, 25-16, 23-25, 25-18, holding on to the prized paddle and taking down a feisty, no-quit South Putnam team that was seeking to avenge its lopsided loss to the Clovers in the county tournament.
"We knew it would be a dogfight, because it always is when we come up here," Cloverdale coach Kathy Moore said. "It's going to be point for point, and anything can happen -- that's how it's always been in the past."
The first game played out in that exact fashion. South Putnam charged to an early 7-0 lead on the strong serve of Janet Crafton, only to find themselves tied 12-12 after Cloverdale put on a run of its own behind the service of Bradanne Toney. From there, the teams traded leads, knotting up at 25 apiece before Cloverdale managed to pull away for the two-point margin needed.
"That first game was so tight and could have gone either way," Moore said. "We have talked all season about finding a way to win that first one, and we were able to do that. It wasn't pretty, but we got it done."
Cloverdale then controlled the second game from the get-go, jumping out to an early lead. Though the Eagles cut the deficit to just two at 14-12, Cloverdale went on a 6-0 run on Breegan Andersen's service and cruised to a 25-16 win. It looked as if the Clovers would roll, just as they had done in the teams' first meeting.
South Putnam, though, refused to relent, and won a hard-fought 25-23 victory in the third game, then led 6-1 in the fourth installment until the two teams traded the lead for much of the game.
A wild point gave Cloverdale a 20-18 lead when a defensive bump caromed off a basketball goal high above but was kept in play and grounded by the Clovers on the next hit. That point helped propel the visitors to the decisive 25-18 win.
"I told the girls before the fourth set, we had to get it done," Moore said. "I told them we don't want to go to five because this is their home court. We had fewer mistakes, some great kills and a lot better digging."
South Putnam coach Lindsey Blackman was pleased with her team's resurgent effort despite the loss.
"We haven't shown that yet this season, but we did tonight," Blackman said of her team's ability to come back. "It was good that we showed some heart, some desire and were able to fight back and win that third one."
She was also excited to see that her team wasn't intimidated by the Clovers.
"The difference between county and tonight was night and day," Blackman said. "We came out ready to play, but in the end we just had some plays go their way that were the difference."
The win puts Cloverdale at 4-1 in WCC play and 10-8 overall. They trail only Cascade, who beat the Clovers earlier in the season and will need South Putnam to beat Cascade when the two teams meet later in the season to tie for the conference championship.
Cloverdale's junior varsity team couldn't match the effort of its varsity counterparts, however, and South Putnam got at least a taste of revenge in knocking off the Clovers, who were also county champions in junior varsity competition. The Eagles dropped the first game before taking the final two to win the match.
At South Putnam
Cloverdale 27 25 23 25
South Putnam 25 16 25 18