ELKHART | Playing a true road match in the postseason can be murder. Even the most unflappable team can start flapping once the scoreboard and a hostile crowd start conspiring against it.
That's how South Central, which appeared so supremely confident in dismantling its sectional opposition on Saturday, was made to look like a completely different unit in a 25-18, 25-15, 25-18 loss in Tuesday night's Class A volleyball regional championship to host Elkhart Christian.
"I felt like most of us came out after the first game and it felt like we were already defeated," said senior outside hitter Aimee Hanna, who finished with eight kills and 13 digs. "I don't think any of us came in confident after that."
"We've been talking about that all season," South Central head coach Ashley Rinker added. "Once they got down by a couple of points, it was like, ‘Oh no!'"
A tight first game appeared to be tilting in favor of the Satellites (28-3) when a pair of kills by senior outside hitter Stephanie Balon and a service ace from junior Alex Snyder helped create a 13-9 cushion. Elkhart Central roared back with six consecutive points, however, and South Central never recovered.
Game 2 wasn't nearly as dramatic. South Central let itself fall into an early 7-2 hole and never seriously threatened. The Satellites briefly showed signs of life when they put together a quick 3-0 spurt to get within four at 12-8, but three unforced errors and a service ace gave Elkhart Christian the momentum right back, and the visiting side couldn't get any closer than seven points the rest of the way.
"Our ball control wasn't great," Rinker said.
Despite the disappointing conclusion, the Satellites took solace in their sectional championship win that came for the first time in nearly two decades.
"I'm very proud," Rinker said of her club. "They played their hearts out, came together and had a great year."
Balon closed her career with a 15-kill, 17-dig performance in defeat, while senior setter Stephanie Campbell also registered a double-double with 24 assists and 14 digs.