Cloverdale head coach Kathy Moore told her team from the get-go, North Putnam was going to be a tough opponent.
"I told the girls, 'this is not the same North Putnam team that you saw last year,'" Moore said. "I said 'they played this summer and they are a much, much better team.' I really thought Jill (Schreiber) had them ready today. They played good ball. (Greencastle coach) Trish (Lowe) had her kids really ready to play today."
In the first set, North Putnam built a quick 6-1 lead and maintained a five-point edge at 10-5. However, the Clovers rallied back and tied the set at 11-all and proceeded to take a 12-11 advantage. Cloverdale was able to build a three-point lead at 19-16.
The Cougars powered back and tied the set at 20-all when Kayla Clodfelter connected on a big hit. An ace from Katie Welch gave the Cougars a 21-20 edge and began a four-point run. The Clovers couldn't get the ball over the net, allowing the Cougars to take the first set 25-21.
Set two looked like it would be another dogfight with both teams trying to up the energy. The Clovers gained a 3-1 lead, but North Putnam took control once again and rattled off eight points with the set tied at 5-all for a 13-5 lead.
With the Cougars clearly in the driver's seat, Cloverdale's Bradanne Toney halted their run with a kill from the back line. And with the score 17-11 in favor of North Putnam, Cloverdale found what had eluded it early in the match and went on a six-point run to tie the set at 17-all
Following ties at 18-all, 19-all and 20-all, Cloverdale went in front for good and battled its way to a 25-22 second set win.
Cloverdale utilized the momentum it found in the second set to take control of the third set and cruise to a 15-9 victory to claim the country crown.
"It's a good feeling," Moore said of the win. "This is the third year both of our squads have come home with the tournament trophies and I feel really proud. That's a fantastic accomplishment."
Even when things were going tough in the second set, Moore knew the match never truly out of reach.
"I really thought we did a good job of coming back in that second set," Moore said. "They really had us down. The funny thing about volleyball and this rally scoring, it can change in a heartbeat. You're never really out of the game. It can swing quick."
North Putnam head coach Jill Schreiber said she was proud of her girls, but very disappointed for them. She noted how hard the team has worked and that they played well in the second set, but just couldn't hold on for the win.
"This group of girls are going to be tough," she said. "We play well together and they want the win. Morgan Robinson is a big asset to this team. She's missed on the court but is always there for the team to keep them motivated."
Robinson was injured in a Feb. 20 accident when she lost control of her car and it struck a tree. The senior lost the use of her legs, but the heart she brings to the team on the sideline is apparent to everyone.
Schreiber had nice things to say about each of her girls and their performances following the game. She also said she knows her team will be able to rebound from the loss.
"Again, (I'm) proud of my girls and so disappointed with and for them," she said. "This team will bounce back and come back strong, that's the best thing about this team. (They're a) fun group of girls to coach and be around."
For all the action and wonderful performances Moore received from her team on the court, it was a player on the bench that she spoke about following the match.
Junior Megan Helterbrand gave up her spot on the JV to play varsity Saturday, but was never called into the game. That willingness to sacrifice self for the team impressed her head coach.
"She was there to go in and unfortunately I didn't get to put her in. That was a big sacrifice for her to give up a starting position on the JV to come up and help us on varsity," Moore said.
Cloverdale will return to action against Shakamak Tuesday at home at 6 p.m. for Grandparent's Night, while the Cougars will host Crawfordsville Tuesday.
At North Putnam
Putnam County Tournament
Cloverdale 21 25 15
North Putnam 25 22 9