The 2012 North Putnam volleyball season ended on one of those nights Thursday. The Cougars looked strong in stretches but struggled in crunch time, falling to Lebanon in straight sets, 25-16, 27-25, 25-21.
Ending the season in the first round of the Western Boone Sectional was not what coach Jill Schreiber and her team had in mind, but she expressed her pride at the way the team rallied around seniors Katie Welch, Lynsey Herrick and Samantha Lucas all year.
"The team came together and played for these seniors," Schreiber said. "They played their hearts out for these girls -- that really changed the dynamic of the season."
In a year of mixed results for the Cougars that included a big upset of Cascade and a 3-2 West Central Conference record alongside some disappointing defeats, Thursday was no different. The Cougars had their ups and downs.
After some early lead changes, Lebanon took charge of the first set and cruised to a 25-16 win.
The second set was a microcosm of the night, with the Cougars using some good service from Welch and Madison Asbell to build two different four-point leads at 20-16 and 24-20.
They failed to close the deal, however, as the Tigers came roaring back from the brink, winning seven of the last eight points for a 27-25 win.
Down two sets, the Cougars played from behind for most of the third set. After falling into an 0-5 hole, North battled back to force five different ties and even took a 21-20 lead.
But they again saw Lebanon close the deal for a 25-21 win and the match.
Through it all, Schreiber had praise for her players.
"Samantha Lucas had a really strong game. She was a good middle for us all season long," Schreiber said. "Katie Welch served well.
"Madison Asbell came in and played an excellent game for us," she added. "She served well, she hit well."
The coach had additional praise for freshman Jenny Heron, who was strong up from for the Cougars.
Schreiber likes what she sees in the future from Heron and classmate Taylor Nauert.
"Next year I'm going to have two very tall girls in the middle who can hit and who can move," Schreiber said.
With the Cougars likely moving back to Class 2A next year, Schreiber said she was happy to see her team competing with other teams at the 3A level to close this season.
"Being able to compete with a 3A and keeping the games very close, our confidence is much better," Schreiber said.
At Western Boone
IHSAA Class 3A Volleyball Sectional 25
Lebanon def. North Putnam 25-16, 27-25, 25-21