North Putnam entered the first game with high expectations and its early play matched those expectations. The Cougars raced out to a 7-0 lead over the Clovers with Morgan Robinson and Samantha Lucas owning the net and Robinson picking up some timely aces to build the lead.
Cloverdale was able to put its first points up when Mariah Oetken recorded a kill, but the momentum was still with the Cougars. They continued to press the Clovers, with Cloverdale giving up points on poor hits and uncharacteristic errors.
However, Cloverdale continued to chip away at the lead in determined fashion. North Putnam held an 18-10 edge at one point, but the margin began to fade as the Cougars broke the 20-point barrier. North Putnam's offense was leading 22-17, just three points away from taking the opening set, but its offense had reached a plateau.
With the Cougar unable to find any offense, Cloverdale ran off seven unanswered points to win the opening set 25-22 with Oetken recording the final point on a stuff at the net.
"I really thought we were going to do it," Cougar head coach Jill Schreiber said. "It wasn't that we fell apart, we just weren't doing what we needed to get done. The locker room -- it was tough and I told them 'I'm disappointed because we lost, but we played well'. Last year, Cloverdale came in and just walked all over us. This year we stood up for ourselves. The girls are starting to see we do have some talent, we do have the ability to win and beating Rockville and South Putnam was a big win for us."
Passing was an issue for the Clovers in the first set and its head coach addressed that following the match.
"That first game, we just couldn't pass up a ball to save our lives," Cloverdale head coach Kathy Moore said. "My issue this year with the kids has been we cannot follow up an error with an error with an error. We were down eight or nine to nothing and it is so difficult to come back and win a game like that and we were luck enough to do that. You can't count on luck every time."
The second set was more what the Clovers had expected, but North Putnam refused to give anything away on its home court. Even though Cloverdale jumped out to a 12-5 lead, the Cougars continued to scrap and hustle. North Putnam's Madi Asbell went down with an apparent knee injury with the Cougars trailing the set 20-9 and had to be helped to the bench with her knee bent.
North Putnam's offense rallied around its fallen teammate and rattled off six points with Tari Straziscar serving. Two of the biggest points came from Asbell's older sister, Kenzy, who connected on two monster kills for the Cougars.
In the end, however, Cloverdale's Bradanne Toney was too much for the Cougars as Cloverdale went on to win the second set 25-19. Toney had 13 kills in the match along with six digs.
"Jill does a great job with her kids. They're playing good ball right now and they gave us a battle and it could have went either way. Like I said, luck was on our side that first game," Moore said.
Schreiber said the mentality of the team is shifting and she likes how the team is transforming.
"Our confidence is up. a couple years ago it was 'Ah, we lost', now its 'OK, we play them on Sept. 22 and we are going to beat them'. They want that paddle, they want that win, so it good. We're improving in that area," Schreiber said.
Moore talked about the importance of passing and what quality defines her team the most.
"Really for my team, or any team, passing is everything," she said. "If you can pass the ball up to your setter, your chances of scoring a point on a kill are 70 or 80 percent. That's really a point of emphasis for us. We spend 60 percent of our practices working on passing and still we have moment of lapses.
"The one good thing I have to say about this team is this is a scrappy team and they don't give up. Really to complement them, that's one of their strengths for this particular group. They work hard and they don't give up," Moore added.
In the junior varsity championship, Cloverdale defeated the Cougars 25-14 and 25-14.
In the first game, Cloverdale led from start to finish with Maddy Smith, Lexi Branneman and Megan Helterbrand picking up some nice aces.
While they didn't lead the second set from the get-go, the outcome was identical to the first set. The Clovers and Cougars battle was more back and forth in the second set, but a big point burst was able to put them over the top.
With the score at 16-14 in favor of the Clovers, they were able to run off nine straight points to close out the match and win the match 25-13 when Ali Nees delivered a sinking ace that dipped over the net and out of the reach of any Cougar.
At North Putnam
Cloverdale 25 25
North Putnam 22 19
Junior Varsity Championship
Cloverdale 25 25
North Putnam 14 14