There's never a shortage of emotion when Terre Haute South and Northview square off on the volleyball court. While in this case familiarity doesn't necessarily breed contempt, but it sure does turn a rivalry white-hot.
Nearly all the players on both teams play club volleyball either on the same teams or in many of the same complexes for practices and tourneys. South head coach Steve Beeler even coaches some of the Northview players on his Crossroads of America travel team. So each matchup, especially the last four seasons, have been of greater importance for bragging rights.
On Tuesday, the teams brought outstanding teams to Northview High School and put on a splendid, rollercoaster of a match in which just one set didn't go the maximum distance, and that one, fell just one point short.
The Knights were forced to battle from behind for nearly the entire evening, but gritted out a match-tying 25-23 win in game four that forced the deciding fifth game to 15 points.
Terre Haute South took control early in that final game, leading by three points and pushing the Knights to the brink at 14-11. Northview battled back on a service ace from Lindsay Thomas and one of Lottie King's remarkable 16 blocks to get within 14-13. But South managed to escape the Knights' clutches once again on a kill from Madison Hayne to prevail in the final game, 15-13.
The first four games were stunners as well, South taking the first 27-25, the Knights answered back 25-22 but lost the third game 25-23 and forced the final game 25-23.
While another loss to South never goes down smoothly, Northview coach Scott McDonald saw plenty to be proud of in his team.
"That was a great volleyball game, we had a great crowd and I thought we played well," said the first-year head coach. "There were just some little mental mistakes here and there that cost us."
Both teams came in with sparkling records, the Braves at 13-2 and Northview at 13-1, and their performances on Tuesday showed exactly how they put up those numbers.
South got out of the gate quickly and freshman Taylor Hayne made her presence felt early with a kill to put her team ahead 6-3. Madison Steward did much the same for the Braves who led the entire way and had a 23-19 lead on the Knights.
Northview would get a block from King following a hitting error from Morgan Rebeck. Facing game-point after a kill from Steward, King nailed a shot cross court to keep the Knights' alive at 24-22 and then added a blast following a long rally that brought the Northview fans to their feet.
Though the Braves scored that first-game win, Northview showed they were here for the long haul.
The Knights got out to a lead early in game two and held it on a balanced attack by Brittaney Long, King and even got a tip at the net from setter Lindsay Thomas.
Long, who had 12 kills to lead the team, smacked a cross court winner to put the Knights a three-point lead at 13-11, but the Braves got back on track for an 8-3 rally to take a 16-15 lead.
Northview didn't crawl into a shell, rallying on kills from Huffman and Long as the game see-sawed back and forth to an 18-all tie.
From there, two South hitting errors, a two kills from Long propelled the Knights to a 22-19 lead they would not relinquish in tying the match.
The third game went back to South, though the Knights led 14-11 midway through the game. But Hayne found her stroke again and a couple of mistakes by the Knights sparked a deciding 9-2 run by the Braves that put them in control to stay. Northview would make a late run from a 24-19 deficit on a block and kill from King to get within 24-23, but the Braves regained their composure for the final point.
The late rally in game three carried over to game four for the Knights and they led nearly from the beginning to win game four.
Ashley Hull and Long each had late kills to maintain that momentum for the Knights and Kaley Huffman had one as well.
"Brittaney (Long) was just phenomenal tonight," said McDonald of his sophomore hitter. "Ashley Hull and Lottie had great games for us too. I think we learned that we can play with the Terre Haute South's of the world. We're starting to learn how to put teams away in games."
The Knights did just that in game four, a mental gut check if you will to rally and take the match to the distance.
"Kyler Clark did everything that we expect her to and Kaylee Clark did a really nice job for us in that kind of environment," said McDonald. "She handled herself very well."
Lindsay Thomas rang up the huge sum of 38 assists in the match and provided the leadership that was so key in keeping the team grounded in the emotional contest. Hull had seven blocks for the Knights with six kills and Kyler Clark added 14 digs.
The Knights are now 13-2 overall and travel to Jasper this weekend for a tourney.
T.H. South 3, Northview 2
Next game: Northview travels to play in the Jasper Tourney on Saturday.