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Townsend key in third-set run that boosts South past Central

STEVE WILMOTH, TriCitiesSports.com • Sep 13, 2017 at 12:49 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan Central volleyball coach Logan Kemp has read the script all season. His young Lady Cougars battle hard for two sets before giving way to veteran squads.

The latest chapter was Tuesday’s 25-21, 25-27, 25-20, 25-10 Three Rivers Conference loss to league-leading Sullivan South (18-5, 8-0) inside the Dickie Warren Dome.

View the photo gallery from the match

“It’s been the same story all season,” Kemp said. “Fight hard through the first two sets, and then the fourth set you give up. At some point, we have to be able to rewrite the script.”

After South took the opening set, the second proved to be an entertaining back-and-forth affair. Trailing 15-11, the Lady Rebels ran off eight straight points behind the serving of Maddie Townsend to assume a 19-15 edge.

Back came the Lady Cougars with a seven-point run of their own to retake a 22-19 advantage. South rallied with five straight points but couldn’t take advantage of two match points, and Central evened the match.

“I keep telling the girls that at one some point, it’s going to click,” Kemp added. “You could see some of that in the second set. We had a couple of times in there where we could have quit but didn’t.”

The Lady Cougars (3-9, 1-6) used the momentum to quickly build a 12-5 cushion in the third, but South outscored Central 45-18 the rest of the way to take the match.

“We were sluggish in the first two sets, but we came together more and were up more in the last two,” said Townsend, who had five of her match-high 16 winners as part of the Lady Rebels’ 16-3 spurt to take control of the third.

At one point during the set, libero Meredith St. Clair served 12 straight points, but she was outdone in the fourth by teammate Emma Fake. Fake was at the line when South took the last 15 points of the match in succession.

“We couldn’t get out of those rotations,” Kemp said. “We’ve been fighting with youth all year long and now we are fighting with injuries and illness.

“We got caught in that last rotation with people in some different positions, and they kind of exposed us.”

Many of Townsend’s winners were simple tips to gaps in the center of Central’s defense.

“My theory is I’m going to keep doing it until they cover it, so I kept going there,” she noted.

Abbey Jayne added a dozen kills. Setter Courtney Gibson dished out 32 assists.

“Courtney is really being a leader,” said Lady Rebels coach Wendy Ratliff. “She has super ball control and I can leave her in while on the front row and never get hurt by it.”

The versatile St. Clair, a recent convert to libero, finished with 21 digs in another flashy performance.

“It’s definitely different, although I played some there last year,” she said. “I can see everything more from the back middle. I talk a lot more and it’s nice to be able to cover everything.”

St. Clair also had four key service aces.

“I try to mix it up some on my serve, but when I see there is a weak spot, I keep going there,” she added.

Fake added 20 digs and Gibson 12 for the Lady Rebels.

Avery Lemming, subbing for a sick Camille Lucas, led the Lady Cougars with nine kills.

“Avery rotated on the outside because Camille was out sick. We’re having to rotate some people in some different positions,” Kemp noted. “She did a pretty good job stepping up having not played in that position all season.”

Alyssa Giles added seven kills and 20 digs, and Elaina Vaughan also produced seven kills. Laikan Hoback dished out 26 assists and added nine digs. Maci Cloninger led the Central defense with 29 digs, and Parker Hurd came up with 22.

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