LANSING | Their 18-game winning streak is gone, but T.F. South's Rebels showed Monday they are very much the same team that put that impressive skein together before Lemont snapped it six days earlier.
The Rebels were their old selves in a 25-12, 25-16 South Suburban Blue win over Oak Forest — which is to say their phalanx of hitters hit, but more importantly their hyperkinetic passers passed.
"Everybody says, 'Ooh, the hitters, the blockers,'" said Crystal Lee, who generally generates the most thunderous hits, "but really, the back row is making all the plays.
"If we didn't have the back row, there'd be no hitting."
South (19-2, 7-1) had what for the Rebels is not an unusual night receiving serve, making 20 good passes in 22 opportunities. They were equally impressive digging the ball, getting the ball up 38 times while making just six errors.
Libero Ashtyn Kapovich led the way, going 7-of-8 in serve receive and 10-of-12 digging. It was the kind of performance the Rebels have been getting for three seasons from the all-area defensive stalwart.
"She has got great volleyball instincts," South coach Kim Sands said. "She gets to the ball before it's hit. She reads hitters, she reads serves — she comes out of nowhere to get the ball."
Defensive specialists Cori Reynolds and Sarah Pimentel aren't very far behind. Lee, too, is a stalwart back row presence, and setter Abbe Mullen an equally steady passer.
"We normally focus very well on passing," Kapovich said. "We learned from our mistakes against Lemont. ... Communication is a big part of it. We were loose (Monday). Against Lemont, we just seemed frustrated."
It helped that South missed only four serves all night. Meanwhile, Jenna Pasko fired three aces among her eight service points. Pimentel added seven service points, all in the first set, and Reynolds had five.
A pair of Briana Lilly kills, another from Lee and a Pasko ace highlighted the Rebels' run from a 3-2 deficit to an 7-3 lead in the first set. Pimentel's run, featuring two Lee kills, one from Lilly and a seeing-eye push from Kapovich, taking the ball over on the second hit, made it 21-9. Ultimately, Leah Lagestee (5 kills) closed the set by putting a free ball down.
The second set was much the same story. Lilly had five of her team-high nine kills, Lee three of her six, and Pasko two of her aces.
For the night, Alex Lambros had five kills, three service points and a block to pace the Bengals.