The Lady Rebels held off a late charge by Central in the fifth set.
South was up 11-5, but Central rallied to tie at 12. However, with senior leadership and a little bit of grit, the Lady Rebels were able to tough it out and gain the outright lead in the Three Rivers Conference.
“Honestly, I think we are just loving each other as much as we can,” South coach Wendy Ratliff said. “We do a lot of good stuff and a lot of bad stuff. We give everyone a big hug and tell them they can do it. At this point, it’s keep the spirits up and don’t take it too seriously. I feel like if we play really tight, we make more mistakes.”
The Lady Rebels (9-8, 6-1) were led on offense by Abbey Jayne — who stepped up her game in the winner-take-all fifth set — with a double-double of 15 kills and 18 digs and three blocks. Katie Watson had 17 kills.
Makkenzie Compton had a stellar night 19 assists, 10 digs and four blocks.
On defense, Olivia Delung had 14 digs, 17 assists and seven kills. Libero McKenzie Littleton had 17 digs.
In her first-ever varsity game, Isabella Musick stepped up in a big way for the Lady Rebels, finishing with four kills and three blocks, playing the role of a difference maker in the middle, which South hasn’t had most of the year. It also allowed Jayne to move back out to her natural position at outside hitter to complement Watson.
This game meant a lot to the Three Rivers Conference race with South, Central and Elizabethton all tied atop the standings with a win over each other. South was also in jeopardy of getting swept in the regular season by a conference opponent for the first time since entering the league in 2013.
“This is a big deal for us,” Ratliff said. “We needed to give ourselves a bit of a cushion. We have to get through the rest of the conference season, but so do they. It’s a massive improvement from the first match with them to this one.”
Central had snapped the Lady Rebels’ 52-game regular season conference winning streak at the beginning of the year, so the win made it a bit sweeter for South.
The Lady Cougars (6-3, 5-2) fought valiantly in every set and held a lead in every one except the first. The biggest difference for Central was junior middle blocker Elaina Vaughn, who South had no answer for all night. She finished with 14 kills and seven blocks.
Cassadi Cotter had eight kills, Lexi Cyr had seven and Chloe Ragan had five. Laiken Hoback had another outstanding night at setter, finishing with 45 assists.
On defense, senior libero Parker Hurd had 17 digs while Haley Wilson had 10, Taylor Wilson had eight and Hoback had five.
“It was a good match. We had way too many mistakes on our side of the court and too many errors that put us in tough situations,” Central coach Logan Kemp said. “We got all the way back, and what we talked about in the huddle is how we’re capable of fighting back no matter what the score is. … We’re halfway through the season, and we’ll see them again down the road.”
The biggest difference in the match was the Lady Cougars made 30 hitting errors and nine service errors.
Both South and Central will be at the Rocky Top Classic this weekend in Sevierville on Friday and Saturday.