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Second-half surge propels South Central

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By Andrew Harner

FARINA – The Lady Cougars may not be as potent as some of the recent versions, but this year’s squad has sure made the most out of an otherwise ordinary season.

Coming into the regional title game with just a 16-16 record, South Central gave its pedestrian season an extraordinary finish with a 25-21, 18-25, 25-19 win against top-seeded North Clay.

South Central was 5-10 on Sept. 26 after losing to North Clay in three sets. After that weekend at the Herrin Tournament, it was 8-12.

But a 3-2 record there was undoubtedly the season’s turning point.

“Our girls really enjoyed the Herrin Tournament,” said coach Mary Brimberry. “That seemed like a turnaround for us, where we started playing with a little more confidence.

“Every once in a while, we didn’t finish (a game), but tonight, I saw the confidence, competitiveness and desire.”

Since the Herrin Tournament, the Lady Cougars are 9-4 – including a six-game winning streak from Sept. 30-Oct. 18 and wins in three of the past four games.

Senior Lincoln Brasel said the late-season success has come from not only more game experience, but more cohesiveness among teammates.

“We all really worked together, and tried to help each other out,” Brasel said. “If one of us had a problem, we tried to work together and tell each other what we’re doing.”

That the season was somewhat of a struggle is not a surprise.

Just two starters returned from last season – Brasel and her sister, Maria, a junior – so many of last season’s bench players were thrust into starting roles.

But it was the winning attitude of her players that Brimberry said allowed them to find last-season success.

“You’ve played 33 games now, so you have to build confidence in yourself and with your team,” she said. “It’s the desire. Some of these girls have been playing for 8-10 years, and they want to keep playing.”