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SC backs up record, wins sectional crown

SC backs up record, wins sectional crown
SC backs up record, wins sectional crown
Senior foreign exchange student Hannah Luedtke (8) blasts a shot past Brittney Barnickle of Lanesville in the final match.

For South Central, anything less than a sectional championship would have ruined the best season in school history.
The Lady Rebels, who won the Southern Athletic Conference outright and hadn’t lost to a Class 1A team all season, entered the tournament sporting a sparking record of 21-3. But head coach Patty Shaffer said she never felt completely comfortable, even after taking a two-game lead against rival and defending-champion Lanesville in the sectional title game Saturday night.
South, which sports several players from last year’s state runner-up basketball team, simply stepped up to the challenge and refused to lose.
The hosts dropped just one game during their three-match trek to the sectional championship, defeating the Lady Eagles in three, 25-22, 25-15, 25-22.
The sectional title was the team’s third overall, with the others coming in 1997 and 1999.
By virtue of the victory, South Central (24-3) travels to Greensburg Saturday at 11 a.m. to take on No. 7-ranked Morristown (25-10) in the South Decatur Regional.
Defending regional champion Northeast Dubois (30-3), which is ranked No. 5 in Class 1A, battles Oldenburg Academy (21-13) at approximately 12:30. The championship at 7 p.m.
Interestingly, three of those four schools at the volleyball regional ‘ South, Oldenburg Academy and Northeast Dubois ‘ also slugged it out on the basketball court last February at the Southwestern (Shelby) Regional.
‘These girls are tournament players. They know how to win and they don’t like to lose,’ Shaffer said. ‘I am very proud of what this team was able to accomplish. When we began this season, I knew I had something special, but wasn’t sure how it would all materialize. Some would talk of the potential this team had, but I never wanted to look beyond the next match to even think about their ability to win the conference or sectional. While we set those goals early in the season, I felt we had our plate full winning one match at a time. We are not finished. There is still more work and more improvements to be made.’
South jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the opening game, but Lanesville rallied to knot the affair several times, taking leads of 12-11, 15-13 and 18-17.
A Lady Eagle hitting error tied the first game again, with an ace by 5-11 senior Hannah Luedtke, a foreign exchange student from Germany, giving the hosts the lead. After dropping another point, Lanesville coach Gary Timberlake called a timeout to settle his squad.
‘Just like earlier today (against Christian Academy), we kind of fell asleep after playing so well. But the problem is, when we fall asleep, we might as well go grab a pillow and a blanket, but we usually don’t wake up,’ Timberlake said.
The Lady Eagles woke up long enough to rally and tie the match at 22-all, but South rattled off three straight points ‘ including two by junior Brittany Schoen ‘ to post a 25-22 victory.
The second matchup was tight through the midway point, with Lanesville pulling to within two, 13-11, thanks to a pair of South hitting errors.
From there, the Lady Rebels went on a hot streak and surged ahead thanks to a 10-3 run.
A floor-denter by Luedtke set up the game’s final point, which was scored when a Lanesville kill attempt sailed out of bounds, giving the hosts the 25-15 win.
Lanesville jumped out to a 9-5 advantage in game three, but a hitting error, followed by an ace by Lady Rebel senior Karen Deaton and a kill by Schoen narrowed the gap.
Lanesville surged ahead by three points, then South rallied back to tie the contest at 13, before building a three-point lead of its own.
A service error and a hitting error by the hosts kept Lanesville close, but the Lady Eagles were unable to capitalize as miscues bailed out South.
Thanks to a couple of powerful shots by Brittney Barnickle and Rachel Rivers, Lanesville was able to claw its way back to 20-19.
That’s when Schoen countered with a couple of kills, setting up the final rally that produced the win for South Central.
Shaffer said her team’s lack of service errors and its solid back row play were two big keys to the win.
‘The girls served great. We took great advantage of free balls coming back to us by killing the ball or at least attacking to an area they weren’t able to put it up nicely to the setter. Karen Deaton brought some stability to this tournament that was amazing. When things would start getting crazy on the court or we had a few bad plays, it was Karen that I could get to make eye contact with me and make something happen. She doesn’t get shaken up. It took all season to get her to understand she had an important role as a leader on this court, but she did come through,’ Shaffer said. ‘She and Tammy (McGuirk) work very well together and feed off of one another on the court.’
Shaffer went on to praise all of the players who saw court time.
‘Schoen improved as a volleyball player in these last two weeks more than she has all season. She plays such a smart game. Hannah Luedtke wanted this ‘first place title’ really bad. She referred to many second place awards in Germany. She played a solid series as well, putting the ball away every opportunity she had. Her serving proved to be critical also as she does an excellent job of placing the ball,’ Shaffer said. ‘I thought Sarah Yelch did a great job on the outside attacking the ball. Gabrielle Decker and Kaela Orwick worked very hard on the back row. They are my two best passers. Gabrielle is a great libero as she thrives for those chances to steal a kill from someone. She gets to balls that seem impossible and isn’t afraid to hit the floor.’
South’s skipper added, ‘My subs and the girls on the bench deserve to be noted as well. They were up on every substitution and every play. These girls have worked as hard as anyone in practices and made the sacrifices in practice to improve their own play as well as those getting more playing time. I love to see them put their time in unselfishly. Their commitment shows they understand the concept of ‘team.’ Their time is coming.’
Lanesville’s Timberlake said advancing to the sectional final in his first year was a treat.
‘I know Lanesville won the sectional last year, but most of those players were seniors and we were pretty much starting from scratch with this team,’ he said. ‘If you look at (South’s) roster, they are mostly seniors. You see what I mean? Look at the rosters of all of the other teams and then look at ours. We don’t have many seniors, so we won’t be losing a lot for next year. If we can make it this far this year, I expect us to be able to come back and compete to win it next year.
‘That would be awesome for us. South’s a good team this year, and I don’t want to take anything away from them. But next year, we’ll have a good team.’
To advance to the sectional championship, the Lady Rebels had to rally past upset-minded New Washington in four games, 23-25, 25-8, 25-13, 25-21.
South Central controlled the match through the halfway point, but an offensive explosion ‘ sparked by Mustang sophomore Callie Burgin ‘ turned the tide towards New Washington.
Burgin helped serve up a 10-0 run that was the deciding factor in the 25-23 win.
Fortunately for the Lady Rebels, the victory by New Washington was fool’s gold.
Despite a 5-3 lead in the second set, the Mustangs never truly regained their first-game magic the rest of the way.
South went on a 7-0 run and built a 14-7 lead. Later, a pair of aces by Yelch gave SC a 20-8 advantage, which brought on a New Washington timeout.
The Lady Rebels rattled off the next five points unanswered to win the game.
South Central held an early lead, but saw it dwindle midway through the third bout as the Mustangs rallied to 12-11.
The Lady Rebels held strong, however, and pulled away.
On Thursday night, South Central sailed past Restoration Christian in three, 25-23, 25-14, 25-9.
Lanesville’s trek to the sectional title was a bit more adventurous as the club had to work its way past Christian Academy of Indiana in five games, 25-20, 25-16, 24-26, 13-25, 16-14.
The Lady Eagles outlasted CAI in the first set, and never trailed in game two.
In the second stanza, Gayhart had a couple of early points, then an ace late by Erin Dorgay helped put Lanesville on track. A couple of saves by Barnickle sealed CAI’s fate.
The Warriors refused to roll over in games three and four.
The third set was highlighted by a 9-1 run by Christian Academy, while strong play by Blair Wingham and Sydney Rosenburg were the deciding factors in the fourth.
The rubber match started out as an exercise in futility: Six of the first seven points of the game were hitting errors by either club.
The first point generated via an offensive attack was on a kill by CAI’s Kayla Koerber.
Lanesville’s Gayhart executed a nice corner shot, which was followed by four consecutive points by CAI.
The Lady Eagles got back on track after calling a timeout, rattling off a string of points to take a 14-8 lead.
With a flair for the dramatic, CAI rallied thanks to an ace and four service points by Baird, tying the match at 14-all.
A dink by Dorgay and a Barnickle kill twarted the Warriors’ plans.
‘We couldn’t do it easy, could we,’ asked Timberlake. ‘We weren’t adjusting to their hits in the second two games. We had the momentum, but couldn’t finish the deal. That’s what happens with a young team. You’ve got to put the dagger in their heart and drive it home with a hammer to finish it.’
Timberlake said he planned on replacing his lineup after CAI’s second win, but used the ploy to fire up his players.
‘It was funny to see how their eyes lit up. They really wanted to win and weren’t ready to be beat. The senior starters out there jumped up and got out there and did their job,’ Timberlake said.
‘We won the first two games, then kind of coasted, then when they were ready to play, they got after it again. It drives me crazy, but it’s a win, you know?’