In volleyball, communication is everything.
And on Saturday, good communication proved to be the difference for South Central in its 25-21, 25-23 third-place victory over Vandalia at the Altamont Tournament.
"I was real proud of the girls' passing," South Central coach Mary Brimberry said. "That was probably the best we've passed the ball in two seasons."
Vandalia, on the other hand, struggled in that department all match long, and, subsequently, could never get in a rythm in a disappointing tournament finale.
Nearly half of South Central's points came on Vandalia errors.
"Our communication right now is a problem," Vandalia coach Allison Smith said.
"We're just not communicating with each other on a regular basis."
The Lady Vandals (6-2) fell behind 7-1 in the opening game and seemed to be playing catchup all match long.
VCHS did manage to bounce back from that slow start to tie the opening game, 9-9, on an Amanda Walton tip, but Katie Crain countered with a kill, and South Central never trailed again in Game 1.
But that doesn't mean things weren't interesting.
The Lady Cougars (5-1) looked to be poised to pull away after a Jackie Michel tip gave them a 17-11 lead, but Vandalia hung tough, as a pair of Walton kills highlighted a 9-4 run that cut South Central's lead to just one, 21-20.
A Kelsey Uphold kill got the Lady Cougars back on track, however, and three straight hitting errors spelled doom for VCHS down the stretch.
The Lady Vandals got off to a much better start in the second game, as Walton came up with a kill and a block to put Vandalia up 6-4 early.
But Kelsey Uphold responded with a kill that started a 6-1 spurt that had the Lady Cougars enjoying the lead for a long stretch.
Vandalia appeared to grab the momentum, however, after a Shelby Cearlock kill evened the game at 22-22 and a hitting error gave Vandalia a 23-22 lead.
But then Vandalia was called for a lift, setting up a bitter finish.
Justy Rothe followed with a kill that put South Central on the brink of victory. Then, the a VCHS player was called for a controversial net violation on what appeared to be a game-tying hitting error by South Central.
"It was unfortunate for it to end like that," Brimberry said.
"The net didn't even move," Smith said.
It was a disheartening finish to a disapointing tournament for the Lady Vandals, who rolled to pool play victories over over Altamont (25-19, 25-9) and Nokomis (25-16, 25-17), but saw their championship-match hopes dashed in a tough loss to Lincolnwood (25-16, 21-25, 11-15).
"I think they were dissapointed Saturday; I know I was," Smith said. "I thought we should have been in the championship game.
"I thought our kids played well Saturday, we just couldn't put enough strings together."
Brimberry was pleased with her team's showing after going just 1-3 in last year's tournament.
"We definitely wanted to come over to the big gym to play for first or third," Brimberry said.
The Lady Cougars put themselves in position to do so by defeating Greenville (26-24, 25-20) and Beecher City (25-18, 25-12) before falling to eventual champion Cumberland (14-25, 22-25).
Uphold and Rothe led an effective hitting attack with 24 and 25 kills, respectively, many of which were set up by Michel, who finished with 42 assists in the tournament. All three players had more than 30 service points apiece.
Krista Lotz added 14 kills and 27 points - including two aces - while Kendra Schaal had 26 points and 27 assists.
Crain chipped in 26 points and seven kills.
Walton led the Lady Vandals with five kills, two blocks and 13 digs against the Lady Cougars. She finished with 21 kills and 34 digs for the tournament. Cearlock added 14 kills and nine digs in the tournament.
Mary Davis chipped in five aces, while Stephanie Henna had 10 kills over the four matches.
Tuesday's Vandalia Match
Vandalia def. Ramsey
The Lady Vandals cruised to a sweep on the strength of strong serving, as Tori Hagy led the way by going 20 for 21 at the service line, with six acess.
Henna added three aces and three kills, while Cearlock had three kills and three digs. Taylor Parrish chipped in three kills, and Davis had 10 kill assists.
The JV Lady Vandals moved to 4-0 with a 25-11, 25-22 sweep.
Holly Goldsmith had five kills, while Hannah Edwards had four.
Monday's Vandalia Match
Vandalia def. Patoka
The Lady Vandals bounced back from Saturday's dissapointing finish with a win. But it was anything but pretty, as Patoka scored 22 of its 35 points on Vandalia errors.
"We still didn't play to our potential," Smith said. " I don't think we came out ready to go, and I never really thought we got things going.
"I think we kind of just went through the motions tonight."
Patoka (3-1) raced out to a 3-0 lead in the opening game, prompting a quick timeout by Smith. The Lady Vandals responded with a 10-1 run, but struggled to put the Lady Warriors away.
After an Alli Tolka ace tied the match at 13-13, Parrish sparked a 5-0 Lady Vandals spurt with a pair of aces and a kill. But Patoka rebounded, cutting VCHS's lead to just two, 22-20, on a Skyler Payne ace. A Hagy kill and three errors were too much for Patoka to overcome down the stretch, however.
Vandalia raced out to a 7-1 lead in Game 2 and never looked back, cutting down on their errors. Smith feels there is still much room for improvement, however.
"I didn't feel our communication was like it should be," Smith said. "We were second-guessing each other."
Cearlock led the Lady Vandals with eight kills on 20 of 22 hitting, while Davis had 35 assists and eight kill assists. She was also 7 for 7 serving with two aces.
Hagy chipped in two kills, two aces, 12 assists and three kill assists, while Walton had three kills.
Henna led the Lady Vandals with four aces, while Katie Vieregge had two aces off the bench, including one to close out the victory.
The JV Lady Vandals improved to 3-0, thanks in large part to a slew of aces.
Calista Eyman had six, while Megan Shreve, Haley Wollerman, and Edwards had two apiece.
Tuesday's South Central
S.C. def. Clay City 25-8, 25-12
The Lady Cougars moved to 6-1 overall and 2-0 in MTC play with an easy sweep.
Uphold led the way with seven kills, while Michel had 18 points - including two aces - and eight assists.
Rothe chipped in five kills and 10 points, while Schaal had 10 points and eight assists.
The JV Lady Cougars also rolled, 25-17, 25-14.
Kinzie Neilson led the way with 10 points and five aces. Danielle Hall added 11 points.