It only seemed fitting that the 2014 season should begin with one.
Haley Price hammered out 17 kills and the defending TSSAA Class AA champion Lady Rebels opened with a 25-18, 22-25, 25-18, 25-17 win over Dobyns-Bennett Tuesday night.
"It was the best time we could get to play each other, so I don't think either one of us thought about it," South coach Wendy Ratliff said, referring to D-B. "But yeah, it's a big game to start with.
"It's a good win. It'll give us some confidence."
The Lady Rebels (1-0) have spent an entire season in a separate conference from the Class AAA Lady Indians. The spectators filling the bleachers Tuesday night confirmed that archrival status has survived the transfer.
"There was a big crowd. No matter what, it's always going to be like that between us and D-B. And that's good," Ratliff said. "Strong volleyball is strong volleyball, whether we're AA or AAA. There is always going to be a rivalry between us."
D-B (0-1) entered the fray minus a key returning player and a head coach. Skipper Wendy Baker is wrapping up recent maternity leave and has yet to be cleared to work the sideline. Veteran hitter Taylor Henry has been rehabbing a severe case of tendinitis on her lower leg since July.
With assistant coach Lindsay Statum running the show, the Tribe took South to four games, getting eight kills apiece from Sasha Morrisette and Rebecca Morehouse, who came on strong late in the second game. Morrisette and Allison Kilgore had 15 digs apiece and Makenzee Frohlich had 17 digs. Syndey Carrier lofted 22 assists.
"We had a lot of unforced errors. A lot of that is because we're so young. We graduated all of our defense from last year," said Statum, who noted that Henry has finally begun full practices with the team.
"We were on defense a lot and just needed a pass. But South played a great game. They're a great team."
Price, a Class AA all-state pick last season, had nine digs for the Lady Rebels. She sent across six service aces, including the penultimate point in the opening game.
Her sister, sophomore Hannah Price, slipped in eight kills and eight digs to go with 29 assists. Hannah Price played for Sullivan East as a freshman last season and transferred to South last semester.
"It doesn't put a lot of pressure on me. I've always played with older girls, so I trust myself and I raise my standards to meet theirs," said the sophomore setter-hitter.
Sydney Ward had nine kills for the Lady Rebels. Emma Carico recorded five kills and Jobeth Conkin had four. Brayden Hutchins led the defense with 23 digs.
The air conditioning was out in the gym Tuesday night, putting extra stress on both teams.
"The conditions we were playing in, with the sweat and the wet floor and everything else, I'll take the win. I'm excited," Ratliff said.