ROACHDALE -- A fast start and dominant final set propelled the North Putnam volleyball team to a four set victory over South Putnam Thursday, the team's first conference victory.
North Putnam coach Jill Schreiber said the team entered the match believing it was capable of a strong match to hold down its home court.
"This is the best overall athletic team we've had," Schreiber said. "It's always nice to have that first conference win, and being our rival school sometimes makes it even sweeter."
She added they entered the match hoping to win in three sets, a goal that seemed possible for much of the match.
The Cougars jumped out to a fast 2-0 (25-16, 25-21) lead before the Eagles responded with a dominant third set, 18-25.
"We just didn't have it all together to win the game," South Putnam coach Renata Hendrickson said.
North Putnam controlled the match from the early going.
Up 9-8 in the first set, junior Bethany Wiatt took over the serve and propelled the team to five straight points. Seniors Samantha Lucas and Katie Welch controlled the net and forced SPHS to sit back on the defensive.
"We need to work on our tip coverage," Hendrickson said. "I think that's one of the big things that kind of hurt us tonight. We were in our positions but we just didn't move quickly enough or react quickly enough to the tips to get it back."
Lucas led the Cougars offensively, but Welch pounced all over the court, controlling the action with her defense and aggressiveness.
Schreiber said as her team becomes more aware of its skills, Welch is becoming more of a weapon.
"They understand that Katie is very good and that she can play all the way around," she said. "They know that they need her, just as she knows that she needs them."
South Putnam came out with more energy in set two, taking a short-lived lead, but they failed to put together a sustained run.
In the third set, the Eagles gained early momentum, which gave the team confidence and allowed it to go on its first sustained run of the match.
"Our girls play well when they keep their heads up," Hendrickson said. "A lot of times, if they have a few bad digs or passes, they kind of drop (their enthusiasm). When they can keep their heads up they play really well together."
The dropped set seemed to motivated North Putnam, which began the fourth set on a 7-1 run. The six-point deficit was as close as the Eagles came, and NPHS won the set 25-14.
At North Putnam
South Putnam 16 21 25 14
North Putnam 25 25 18 25