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First-set resurgence aids Lady Cougars

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By Andrew Harner

FARINA – The Lady Cougars had several opportunities to allow themselves to get buried by North Clay in the first set of last Thursday’s regional championship match.

But they refused each one of them, and that’s probably a good thing.

South Central trailed until tying the first set at 20 as part of an 8-3 run that finished off the set and helped propel the Lady Cougars to the regional championship after a 25-21, 18-25, 25-19 victory.

“It was really exciting,” said senior Lincoln Brasel of the comeback. “For awhile there, we were down, so we knew we had to keep getting up.”

The Lady Cougars didn’t let a dismal start discourage them, as North Clay junior Courtney Crull frustrated them, using a jump serve to secure two aces in the first four points before her fifth serve went into the net.

That early 4-1 lead would grow to as many as seven points – at 16-9 – before the Lady Cougars finally got some momentum.

North Clay led by at least six points at four different junctures, but South Central’s players never let the deficit get out of hand, by allowing North Clay no more three straight serves after Crull’s opening five.

The seven-point deficit came one point after South Central’s first timeout, but after that 60-second break, there was an aggressive change in the style of play.

“We needed to regroup, because we were trying to go too fast,” said coach Mary Brimberry. “We needed to slow it down a little bit, and get it back in control.”

A new energy swelled from that timeout, as the Lady Cougars – with some minor substitutions – promptly went on a 10-4 run to tie the match at 19.

In that run were numerous well-placed attacks that forced North Clay into bad passes, sets and attacks.

Three attack errors by North Clay combined with two aces from Brasel to set that run in motion, and included in the final eight points of the set were four kills by junior Maria Brasel and a corner kill by freshman Emily Chapman that picked up the set win.

“I didn’t feel like we were out of it,” Brimberry said. “I knew I had other girls who I could throw in there to do the job.

“You like to stick with the (starters), but I have confidence in anybody on my bench.”

South Central only lost three matches this season after winning the first set.