The Eels fell behind two games to one and had their backs against the wall, trailing 20-18 in the fourth and possible deciding game. But Clay City rallied on Hannah Moore's serve. Kelly McCullough started the comeback with a kill and the Clovers obliged with a pair of hitting errors before Angie Camp sent home a kill and Moore served up an ace.
Suddenly the Eels led 23-21 and despite a pair of hitting mistakes of their own, came back to hold on for a 25-23 victory to even the match at two games apiece.
"I've been barking and barking at them about being mentally tough," commented Eels' coach Trisha Hall. "I was happy to see us finish, I'm really pleased."
After inconsistent play in the second and third games sent them to back-to-back 25-19 defeats, the Eels bounced back strong on McCullough's hitting early in game four as well as an opening point from Britney Glass who had 11 kills in the game.
The comeback in the fourth game seemed to bolster the Eels' confidence that had been lacking in their two losses. They came out fired up in the fifth game with Mardi Steiner's serve at the peak of its effectiveness.
She served up a pair of aces and Glass got a tip at the net for a point to set up a kill from McCullough that gave the Eels a quick 5-0 lead to force a Cloverdale timeout.
True to the matches' form, the Clovers did some rallying of their own.
Senior Erica Lotz blasted two aces from the service line and Elizabeth Cheatham tipped a ball over the Eels' front line for one of her seven kills on the night.
Quickly, the Clovers had gotten right back into the thick of things at 5-4 in the deciding game.
Momentum would swing back to the Eels as Glass dropped a dink shot past the Clovers' defense to return serve to the Eels. Moore would serve up another ace, one of 23 service points on the night for the senior and Clay City stretched their lead back to 10-7 following one of Angie Camp's team-leading 13 kills.
Leading 12-10 after Cloverdale's Kaileigh Sparks service ace, the Eels got a break when the sophomore sent her next serve too long. The Eels handed the ball back on their own service error and led 13-12, but the Clovers returned the favor and Glass sent a nice back set that found open floor on the next rally for the 15-12 final game victory.
"It was really nice to see how we would react," commented Hall on her team's rally.
"That was a good match," admitted Cloverdale coach Kathy Moore. "I thought we played really well. . .and I thought Clay City's libero (Emily Reed) played a great game for them."
For the Eels, McCullough had eight kills and 20 assists while Moore also added 10 assists.
The 25-20, 19-25, 29-25, 25-23, 15-12 victory propels the Eels to 3-0 on the young season and they travel to play in a Saturday tourney at West Vigo where they open with North Knox.
Clay City 3, Cloverdale 2
At Clay City
Next game: Clay City travels to West Vigo to participate in a Saturday tourney beginning at 9 a.m.