Doing anything besides sleeping at 8 o’clock on weekend morning is a pretty unenviable task.
So playing a 14-1 South Central team at that early hour was obviously a tall order for the Vandalia volleyball team in the Lady Vandals’ opening match of their own tournament Saturday.
Vandalia was up for the challenge early, jumping out to a 13-3 lead in the opening set against the Lady Cougars. But South Central proved to be a morning team as well, recovering from a slow start to pull out a 25-21, 20-25, 15-7 win over the host team.
‘We like early games,’ South Central coach Mary Brimberry said. ‘We don’t mind playing at 8 o’clock.’
Neither team was able to overcome competing in a stacked Pool ‘A,’ however, as both teams’ championship hopes were dashed by eventual champion Carlyle in subsequent pool play matches.
South Central went on to a third-place finish in the eight-team event, while VCHS took fifth. Brownstown competed in Pool ‘B,’ finishing eighth with a 0-4 record.
With the memory of their second heartbreaking loss to South Central in as many matches still fresh in the Lady Vandals’ minds, VCHS fell to eventual champion Carlyle, 25-21, 25-17, in its second pool play match.
‘To play two tough teams back-to-back is tough to do,’ VCHS coach Allison Smith said. ‘Maybe if we had Roxana in between there, it would have been different… But even against Carlyle, we came out and played well.’
Despite solid overall play, the Lady Vandals’ Achilles’ heal against the Lady Indians was the same as it was against South Central.
‘We’re giving off blocks of points at a time,’ Smith said. ‘We’ve got to stop giving up 10 points at a time.’
Case-in-point: VCHS’s decisive third game against the Lady Cougars.
One minute, the Lady Vandals were enjoying a 5-2 lead. A few moments later, South Central had ripped off an 11-0 run that had them on the brink of victory, up 13-5.
Granted, the talented Lady Cougars had a lot to do with that run, as Krista Lotz led the way at the service line with four aces during the stretch.
South Central used a similar run to erase an early 10-point deficit against the Lady Vandals in the opening game.
Kayla Harpster’s kill highlighted South Central’s comeback, evening the game at 19-19, and three consecutive VCHS errors followed as part of a 19-6 Lady Cougars run.
A Shelby Cearlock kill temporarily stopped the bleeding for Vandalia, but Justy Rothe then completed the Lady Cougars’ comeback with a kill and an ace.
South Central looked to be on the fast track to the championship match after rolling to a 25-14, 25-18 win over Roxana in its second match, but a two-hour break and a noon match against Carlyle left the Lady Cougars a bit famished and out of sorts during their lunchtime match against the Lady Indians.
‘We were just flat against Carlyle, unfortunately, because that’s a team we want to play good against,’ Brimberry said. ‘We just didn’t do it that time.’
The Lady Cougars closed strong, however, using a pair of comebacks to take down Lebanon in the third-place match, 25-21, 26-24.
South Central came back from a 17-11 deficit in the opening game, playing errorless volleyball during a decisive 14-4 run that was highlighted by four Rothe aces.
The Lady Cougars then came back from a 15-6 second-game deficit.
‘Once they were able to get something in their bodies again, it helped a lot,’ said Brimberry of her team’s ability to bounce back from missing out on a title shot following its loss to Carlyle. ‘I just think we have a real good all-around team. I’m just real happy with them.’
Smith was also happy with how her team responded to disappointment, as the Lady Vandals closed out pool play with a 25-10, 25-18 win over Roxana before rolling past Beecher City, 25-6, 25-12 in the fifth-place match.
‘Our problem has been consistency,’ Smith said. ‘We start off with a high level of energy and communication. Then once we get comfortable, we kinda stop.
‘That’s what we talked about after the Carlyle game, about finding a happy medium. I thought they found that against Roxana and Beecher.’
Nobody could accuse the Lady Vandals of home-cooking their tournament schedule, as they faced arguably the top two teams in the tournament in back-to-back matches Saturday morning.
‘Overall, I wasn’t happy with the results on Saturday,’ Smith said. ‘I don’t think the kids were, either, because they really wanted to be in the top three. But the pools weren’t set up evenly.
‘If you look in Pool B, everybody got beat by somebody in Pool A.’
Vandalia def. Litchfield
The Lady Vandals (11-5, 3-1) kept pace in the SCC-East title race, rolling past the overmatched Purple Panthers.
Cearlock and Amanda Walton led the way with five kills and three aces apiece, while Stephanie Henna chipped in three kills and Mary Davis had nine kill assists.
Hillsboro, Pana, Greenville and Vandalia now have one conference loss apiece.
Hillsboro def. Vandalia
13-25, 26-24, 25-18
After the Lady Vandals rolled to victory in the opening game, the host Hiltoppers seized the momentum by pulling out a tight second game before taking a key early SCC-East battle with match-clinching victory in the third game.
Cearlock had 10 kills for the Lady Vandals, while Hagy had five kills, four aces and six assists, but VCHS missed out on an opportunity to take an early lead in the conference standings after Greenville pulled off an upset of league favorite Pana.
Walton chipped in six kills and three blocks.
SOUTH CENTRAL RESUULTS
S. Central def. Webber
Michel had 18 points and 12 assists, as the Lady Cougars (19-2, 4-0 MTC) annihilated their new conference foes.
Rothe added seven kills in the varsity win, and South Central also rolled to a sweep in the JV match.
S. Central def. Stew-Stras
The Lady Cougars had little trouble with one of the NTC’s top programs, as Uphold had nine kills and Rothe had 17 points – including four aces – to go along with five kills.
S. Central def. Dieterich
25-17, 16-25, 25-19
Rothe had eight kills and 16 service points – including two aces – as the Lady Cougars won for the 14th time in 15 matches.
Lotz added team highs of 18 points and four aces, to go along with five kills. Uphold hammered down a team high 10 kills and chipped in eight points and two aces.