Thursday night, they found some.
Sophomore outside hitter Rylee Milhorn blasted out 16 kills, including a game point and the match point, as the Lady Rebels took a 25-21, 25-27, 25-14, 25-13 Big 8 Conference win over visiting Sullivan Central.
“I think we needed to have some girls step up. They felt like they didn’t do as well as they wanted to against D-B,” said South coach Wendy Ratliff. “I think a lot of it was that they wanted to come out and show people that we can play.”
The 5-foot-10 Milhorn wasn’t the only South hitter to pose match-up problems on the front line for Central (7-2, 5-1). Jenna Conkin, a 6-1 senior middle hitter, knocked down nine kills and collected five blocks.
“I’m proud of us. We had a hard time at D-B the other night and we had to work through it,” said Conkin, who scored the game point in the third set with a heads-up unassisted kill.
“We had a lot more energy tonight than we did on Tuesday night.”
Carlie Phillips, a 5-11 middle blocker, added six kills and two blocks for the Lady Rebels (10-5, 5-1) while 5-8 outside hitter Tristen Pennington had five kills to go with her nine digs.
Senior setter-hitter Heather Harvey was a dual threat, moving in for 10 kills while she distributed 24 assists to her hammer-fisted teammates.
“We’ve got very strong hitters, a great front line and great defense,” said Harvey, who also collected a couple of blocks. “We couldn’t have done it without our passes, though. They were spot on tonight.”
Ratliff thought Harvey’s senior leadership was key in holding off the Lady Cougars, who rallied from a 10-5 deficit to take the second game.
“(Harvey) has a good serve, she brings a lot of energy and she’s finding the right hitters,” Ratliff said. “And for us, that could be anybody. She’s spreading the wealth and doing a really good job of it.”
Hannah Johnson also distributed 12 assists for South. Sarah Strong had 13 digs.
“I think if we can put the ball in the air, we can compete with anybody,” Ratliff said.
Amber Alvis had 11 kills to lead Central, which fell behind early in the first game but refused to wilt in the face of South’s thunderous hitting performance.
“Obviously we were outsized tonight physically, so you have to make up for it in a lot of different ways. They got a little fire under their behinds and that’s the way we encourage them to play,” said Lady Cougars coach Tracy Graybeal, who said the second game was the best her team has played this year.
“And then we self-destructed. I’ll give South credit. They brought the heat and we just folded under the pressure.”
Ashley Reynolds had nine kills for Central and Savannah Benton had six kills and 14 digs.
Setter Madi Phillipie parceled out 30 assists while libero Amber Harr rooted out 13 digs.
Graybeal said South has more collective power than any other team they’ve seen so far.
Ratliff said Central may have more collective grit.