The Eels had late leads of 19-15 in game one and led the entire second game up until 23-22, but Bloomfield would scrap to victories in both games on the way to a head-scratcher of a three-game loss for the Eels, 21-25, 23-25, 19-25.
"We just didn't finish, we just got down and didn't have any intensity," commented an obviously frustrated Trisha Hall, coach of the Eels. "Our crowd didn't have any energy either, even our student section was sitting on their hands. We could have used some help from them in rallying."
The Eels came out playing with some of the consistency that has been lacking this season, battling the Cardinals tooth-and-nail in a game that was no more than one point apart until Clay City edged ahead 17-15. The Eels gained some momentum on a block by Kelly McCullough and a kill from freshman Lynsey Higgins who returned from injury for her first game. Angie Camp's kill gave the Eels a 19-15 lead before the wheels seemingly fell off the rollercoaster the Eels have been riding this season.
The Eels had a communication error that resulted in a Bloomfield point and the Cardinals seemed to rally around 6-foot junior, Leairra Thompson.
Quiet for much of the game, Thompson finally awakened and sent down a kill before a hitting error by Camp tied the game at 19.
From there, Bloomfield nailed a kill to the far corner of the court that just did stay inside the line and the Eels struggled to respond.
Two kills and a block from Thompson put the Eels on the ropes following a 7-0 run by Bloomfield. Trailing 23-20, a hitting error from Higgins set up the final point on a Thompson kill.
"(Bloomfield) just ran a quicker tempo and this was Lynsey's first game back so I just hope she had some freshman jitters out there."
Clay City started the second game well too, with an early kill from McCullough and one from both Camp and Emily Reed setting the tone for a 6-4 lead. Higgins added a block and Bloomfield made back-to-back unforced errors to trail 10-5. McCullough controlled the net over the middle stages of the game and Hanna Moore added an ace from the service line to push the lead to 18-14.
Once again however, Bloomfield kept their composure and waited for their chance.
Senior Nikkole Thombleson statrted the rally with a kill and Shelby Gott's serve caught mostly net, but fell to the Eels' side of the court for an ace. Camp ended the short rally with a kill, but the Cardinals narrowed the Clay City lead to 19-17.
The Eels returned the service to Bloomfield on a setting error as both teams traded points, but the momentum shifted noticeably on a kill from Elyse Weddle away from the block attempt by McCullough. The point tied the game and the match swayed in the balance at 23-all.
The Cardinals seized possession of the match on a block by Weddle was returned wide by the Eels and Thombleson finished the game with a kill two put the Eels down two games to none.
The third game seemed almost academic as Clay City struggled to find any rhythm and made several hitting and service errors. Though they led by just a point for most of the early stages of the game, the energy seemed to stay with the Cardinals.
Back-to-back kills from Thombleson and Kaitilyn O'Neall pushed the lead to 17-14 and the Eels couldn't recover as Bloomfield scored the final four points of the game.
"I wish we could see them again," Hall said of getting another chance at the Cardinals who defeated Clay City in the sectional title game last year. Bloomfield moved up to 2A this season while the Eels' remain at 1A.
Clay City falls to 7-5 overall and will travel to Northview for the annual battle for county bragging rights at 6 p.m.
At Clay City
Bloomfield 3, Clay City 0