Full-strength SC pushes ‘Stangs to 5
Eight times during the fifth and deciding set, New Washington and South Central found themselves locked even on the scoreboard.
As South Central coach Amanda Haag described it, there was ‘no clear one team was better than the other.’
South Central fought for a long rally win when Jenna Baelz finished off a point with a kill, prompting a 12-all tie in the fifth set. Going to its strength, New Washington pushed the ball outside, finding an attack via Abbie Hartman to put her team up. A block by the Lady Mustangs’ Madison Fields prompted game point at 14-12.
Out of a South Central time-out, Emma Graebe scored the final point for New Washington, giving the Lady Mustangs a thrilling five-set win. The final score Saturday afternoon of 23-25, 25-19, 23-25, 25-22, 15-12 sent New Washington to the Class 1A New Washington Sectional championship.
‘It was a heart-wrenching match, so exciting,’ Haag said. ‘We really worked the second half of the season, and really the entire season, on playing with heart, never giving up and believing in yourselves. It was about having fun, enjoying the game but playing smart. They did that 80 percent of the time.’
Through the eight ties, South Central had the lead once in the fifth. Sydney Lewis served an ace to put the Lady Rebels up 3-2.
New Washington went on a 3-0 run backed by Hartman scoring on a kill and ace. South Central worked its way back to even the match at 7-all when a dig by Alexis Knear led to Lewis passing a winner to an open spot.
From there, the teams drew even again at 9-, 10-, 11- and 12-all before the Lady Mustangs eked out the win.
‘We play our best the second part of a set,’ Haag said. ‘It’s that short 15 where we have to get going. It’s sometimes hard to get over that, which we struggled with all year. It was really hard when we lost the fourth.’
Off the service line, South Central was dominant in game one. While New Washington put up four service errors, the Lady Rebels had six aces. Jordan Renn had a serve dip just after crossing the net, part of back-to-back aces for the South Central senior to give her team a 13-11 lead. The jump-serve of Noelle Miller also gave New Washington fits, helping to extend South Central’s margin to 17-14.
New Washington rallied to even game one at 23-all, but the final two points went to South Central. Ally Davis got up for a block to wipe away a pass by New Washington setter Audrey Eurton. The set closed with a Lewis ace.
‘Coming off a really bad loss to New Wash (3-0) just last week, to get that first set win gave us momentum,’ Haag said.
New Washington jumped out to a 7-3 lead in game two via a pair of Madison Fields winners. The Lady Mustangs eventually grew the lead to 19-11 then 24-15. South Central fended off four game points, thanks to Jenna Baelz and Davis kills before New Washington evened the match at a game apiece.
Erasing the memory of game two, South Central put together a 5-0 spurt with Renn at the service line to start fast. An ace, along with a Miller block and Davis winner put South Central in the lead.
Aces were put in by Kaitlyn Harl and Lewis during the set as well. South Central’s biggest lead, however, was five points. New Washington chipped away and eventually led 23-21.
Out of a time-out and with South Central’s libero on the sideline nursing an injury, the Lady Rebels showed heart to rally back.
Kaylee Logsdon swung from the outside for a kill. To even the match and take the lead, setter Knear sent back-to-back kill chances to Baelz, who cashed in on the tries. Screams and hugs filled the South Central sideline on game point when Harl watched a New Washington attempt go outside the line along her team’s bench.
‘The heart of my team showed tonight, too,’ Haag said. ‘Sydney came out with her elbow pointing the wrong direction in the third set, and we still won. Sydney is a big player for us, and we didn’t give up. I told Sydney that she passed some of her best that I’ve seen in a long time. Our seniors have a lot of heart.’
Lewis returned to the court for games four and five. In the fourth, it was back and forth once again. New Washington led 8-4 only to see a Kendall Miller block give South Central a 9-8 lead.
Neither team had an advantage of more than three points in game four outside of the first seven points. A winner up the line by Davis put South Central up 19-18. Back-to-back swing errors by the Lady Rebels swung the advantage to the opposite side, leading to a New Washington victory.
‘We had a couple of missed spots in the fourth,’ Haag said. ‘(The Lady Mustangs) were attacking from their left, and we weren’t getting there. This was probably one of our worst blocking games. That’s something we’ve relied on a lot this year. That being said, some of my girls that don’t usually dig balls were digging balls today.’
The scrappiness of both teams ” at all six playing spots ” was evident throughout the match.
‘I saw a lot of growth out of some front-line players,’ Haag said. ‘I call them my trees. They went down to dig some balls, Jenna Baelz, Kaylee Logsdon and others.’
South Central’s season closed with an 11-16 record. The program will graduate four seniors: Davis, Lewis, Knear and Renn.
‘The seniors were very nervous coming into the season,’ Haag said. ‘There is the change-over in coaching, which can be hard on a senior. I feel they really grew. I’ve known them all since they were kids, but they grew as leaders, being team members and the mental part of the game. The biggest progression was the belief you can win. Once we got past our fifth win, our sixth win we knew we could really do something. We truly came into this sectional believing we could compete.’
It also took the Lady Rebels a while to get healthy. They used three setters ‘ Annabelle Faith, Noelle Miller and Knear ‘ throughout the season. An injury to Knear sidelined her for a bulk of matches, while Faith suffered a knee injury filling in for Knear. Miller kept the setting going until Knear’s return. Renn and Logsdon also missed the early portion of the schedule while recovering from injuries.
‘We really started to see some more advanced things,’ Haag said of the full team. ‘We weren’t able to do those things because of shuffling the line-up … It wasn’t until the last few weeks of the season where we could set a definite rotation that worked for us.’
First Round: South Central 3, Borden 0
In the first-round match Thursday, South Central rolled to a sweep, 25-14, 27-25, 25-18 over Borden.
Ally Davis paced South Central offensively with 11 kills, two blocks and an ace. Also adding to the total team kills were Jordan Baelz (seven), Kendall Miller (six), Kaylee Logsdon (four), Noelle Miller (one) and Kaitlyn Harl (one).
As a team, South Central had 15 aces. Among the leaders at the line were Sydney Lewis (five aces), Noelle Miller (four) and Jordan Renn (four).
Lexie Knear had 27 assists.