North Putnam downs Eagles in 4 sets
ROACHDALE -- Whenever county rivals get together in competition, one thing is for sure -- good things are going to happen. When the North Putnam and South Putnam volleyball teams tangled Thursday, it was no exception.
Both teams displayed some great effort, but it was North Putnam who came out on top in four sets. The Cougars won 17-25, 25-14, 25-14 and 26-24.
North Putnam head coach Jill Schreiber was pleased with her team's performance and the hustle it showed.
"We are heading in the right direction, beating south, a conference team, is one of our goals," Schreiber said. "I was very proud of the girls tonight (Thursday). They played well, hustled and played as a team. We still have to work on staying ahead of our competition and playing "our" game, but overall we came together and played well and as a team."
In the first set, South Putnam held the advantage for most of the set, taking the advantage early and holding strong when North took the lead at 10-9. The Eagles gained the edge back and extended their lead to 17-13.
Two aces from Emily Dabkowski served up two consecutive aces to close the set, with the Eagles winning 25-17.
Following their impressive first set, the Eagles struggled for the remaining three sets.
The Eagles showed some nice effort all night, but South Putnam head coach Lindsey Blackman was frustrated by the lack of aggressiveness from her team.
"We had spurts of effort," she said. "There at the end we decided to fight, I guess. It was a frustrating, frustrating match for us. We came off a good win on Tuesday where we just fought the entire game. I felt like we had a lot of let ups and lack of aggression and lacked some mental toughness."
The second set saw South Putnam jump out to a quick lead, but North Putnam rallied, took the lead and didn't look back. The Cougars scored 11 straight points to close out the game.
During that run, Katie Welch served up five aces and the Cougars won the set 25-14.
The Cougars were able to build a lead of 10-1 to open the third set, behind aces from Welch and Morgan Robinson and a kill from Megan Robinson.
South Putnam was able to put some points up with kills from Dabkowski, Ashley Wombles and Brooke Boetjer, but North was able to capitalize on South Putnam's miscues and took the set 25-14.
The Eagles struggled on the night and Blackman attributed a lot of the mistakes to the team's mental game. Asked how to hone the mental toughness of a team, she said it's a challenge.
"That's a challenge we face as coaches, as teams, to try to figure out how do you practice mental toughness? Is it something they just have or is it something you can teach them," she said. "We try to put them in situations in practice where they have to be mentally tough.
"For us, we try to balance being happy and excited before a game and being focused. And sometimes we think we're focused, but really we're just sugar high or whatever. We're getting excited, we have to figure out to become focused," Blackman added.
The fourth set looked to belong to the Eagles early as they jumped out to a lead and clung to it for most the set. After a game of back-and-forth between the squads, North was finally able to seize the lead, but South wasn't done yet.
North Putnam took the lead at 16-15 on a Morgan Robinson ace, but two aces from Dabkowski tied the set at 22-all and a long hit from North Putnam gave the Eagles the lead at 23-22.
But, North battled back and took the lead at 25-24 on a Mackensy Asbell kill. An ace from Tari Straziscar delivered the Cougars the set and the match. North Putnam won the set 26-24 and the match 3-1.
Schreiber acknowledged her team is beginning to take the things it is learning in practice and implementing them into games. She also said the win should be a big confidence booster.
"South rallied for a few points and the girls pulled it together and got back on track," she said. "We have talked about this in practice and finally the girls realized they can pull it together and overcome the other team's momentum. We have some things to work on, but I feel we are at a good point going into the rest of the season. This is the first time in three years we have beat South. This is a big confidence booster for us. I hope this win, will help the girls to realize they are a good team and have the ability to win."
Blackman was glad to see the Cougars before the county match, but acknowledged she needs her team to step up its play before the two meet again.
"It's good to see them before county," she said of North Putnam. "We learn a lot in matches like that where we have to battle mental toughness. We didn't perform well at any level. I told them during the game, all I can say to you is right now is we served well. We did, we served well. We didn't pass well; the passers need to step up because that starts our offense. We didn't set the ball well and then we weren't aggressive.
"We hung our heads after we missed one hit and we have to maintain that mental focus and be aggressive all the time. You can't be on the defense. You won't win volleyball matches on the defense," Blackman said.
Janet Crafton led the Eagles with nine aces, with Dabkowski adding five.
Dabkowski also had six kills, with Alex McHugh adding five. Brenly Bratcher had four digs for South Putnam.
At North Putnam
North Putnam 3, South Putnam 1
North Putnam 17
South Putnam 25
North Putnam 25
South Putnam 14
North Putnam 25
South Putnam 14
North Putnam 26
South Putnam 24