Wins have been hard to come by for the Greencastle Tiger Cub volleyball squad for the last two seasons.
But things changed Thursday as the Tiger Cubs took down county rival North Putnam in four sets 25-14, 19-25, 25-23 and 25-20.
The hosts picked up where they left off Tuesday as they stormed out of the gates early, taking a quick lead as they looked for an early jump on the visitors.
North Putnam had difficulty getting serves across in the opening set, allowing the Tiger Cubs to take advantage as they ran through the first set and looked confident in doing so.
That changed in the second set as the Cougars kicked play up a gear.
The hits began to come down harder and crisper as the visitors took command early. Greencastle found themselves on their heels as North Putnam looked to overpower them and while the score was close, the momentum seemed to be in the Cougars' camp after the 25-19 second set.
The pivotal set then produced some of the best volleyball of the round as the two squads buckled down.
Greencastle took a lead as large as five in the set but soon found themselves going neck and neck as the Cougars battled back.
Needing a final point to secure the set, Kara Birt stepped up and got the hit in that won the set for the hosts and seemed to drain the life out of the Cougars.
By the fourth set, Greencastle was beginning to sense that victory was at hand and shot out to an early lead. North rallied to tie it twice and seemed to find a second wind from the third set.
However, the hosts had no intention of being denied as they began to pull away late in the set, stretching the lead out to five and six. Rayleigh Amis put away an emphatic finish to end the match and give Greencastle their first back-to-back wins in the last two seasons.
An excited Liz Spencer said afterwards that her Greencastle squad was able to take and hold the momentum when they got it.
"North Putnam helped us a little bit in the first set. They missed five serves and struggled on offense a bit. Once we got the momentum, we got on a roll and played pretty well," Spencer said.
"North did play better in the second set. They cut down on the miscues. We lost the momentum with miss-hits. They played better and took the momentum into the third set.
"Fortunately, are kids were mentally strong tonight. I was happy that the kids played together as well as we did.
She also acknowledge even when things didn't go her team's way, they continued to play hard.
"Even when there were mistakes, we didn't quit playing. They knew what they had to do in the third set and they went out and did it," Spencer added.
"We missed a couple of serves in the fourth set, but that happens. We joked around late in the set that we were up 22-10 in the County Tournament and lost.
"So they knew that they had to play to win instead of playing not to lose. We'd didn't want to fall apart again but instead focus on the game and finish it," Spencer said.
Spencer was not shy about the work her squad put in.
"Victoria Evans and Sydney Stuckwisch had some big blocks and hits, especially in the first set. For a freshman like Sydney to come in and do that was huge for us," Spencer said.
"Kandice Phillips came in and played excellent defense and served well. Shelby Earl has been in a zone lately with her serving and that continued tonight. Jessi Covert was nailing passes all night.
"Hopefully, Rayleigh Amis came of age tonight. There was a confidence in her play tonight, a spark there that we hadn't seen before," Spencer added.
"We got more out of Kara Birt tonight than we had. In fact, we got a lot out of everyone. We changed things up, instead of simply trying to blast the ball."
Things were not quite as jubilant on the North Putnam side afterwards, as head coach Jill Schreiber put it.
"We weren't ready to play tonight. We didn't play bad tonight, just not where we needed to be at. They wanted it more than we did," Schreiber said.
"It was a pretty even match at times. Greencastle was determined to get a win, and there just wasn't the fire there from our side. By the end of the match, it seemed like we gave up and wanted to go home.
"Alyssa Roberts played a really good game for us tonight. She played great defense and served the ball well. Bethany Wiatt also served very effectively for us," Schreiber added.
"Kallie Brattain did a good job tonight of changing up her hits, not allowing the defense to know where she was going. That helped us tonight."
North Putnam will get little time to lick their wounds as they play again Monday.
"We won't have practice tomorrow, with Homecoming being tomorrow. But we'll need to be ready for Fountain Central Monday, hopefully more ready than tonight," Schreiber said.
Greencastle will wait until Wednesday, when they travel to Cascade. Spencer hopes the momentum will continue to build.
"We'll take a couple of days off. It won't be an easy week next week with Cascade and South Putnam. They're both really athletic teams. We've also got a tournament Saturday," Spencer said.
"The schedule seems to go in spurts, but it never seems to be easy spurts. We'll be ready to go, though."
North Putnam 14 25 23 20
Greencastle 25 19 25 25