LANSING | Lemont has been a thorn in T.F. South's side for three years.
Each year the Rebels volleyball team comes closer and closer to beating its conference nemesis.
Close was all T.F. South could do Wednesday. After losing the first game 25-20, the host Rebels stormed back to take the second game 25-20 and pushed Lemont to the edge in the final game before falling just short 26-24.
The loss drops South to 4-2 in the South Suburban Conference Blue division, while Lemont moves to 6-1.
"They've been a thorn for three years," South coach Kim Sands said. "Every year we get closer and closer. Playing them is like playing the conference championship match."
South's conference championship dream may be harder to reach this season, but Sands isn't disappointed with her team's play.
"Their mental toughness has grown with each hard team we've played," she said. "They really had each other's backs tonight."
The Rebels (14-6, 4-2) hustled and scrapped, threw arms out to reach loose balls and never stopped swinging.
"I always tell them we need to keep swinging if we are going to win," Sands said.
The South players listened to their coach.
Late in the second game as the Rebels and Indians traded points, Madyson Anthony pounded out a kill down the line, Leah Lagestee, with a roundhouse swing, put away a kill, Crystal Lee scored a kill off a block and Bri Lilly smashed a kill from the middle.
"(Setter) Abbe (Mullen) did a great job running our offense tonight," Sands said.
Mullen fed her hitters for 34 assists. Lagestee finished with 13 kills, Lilly had eight kills and Lee added five kills.
When Lemont called a timeout at 24-20 in the second game, Lilly came out of the huddle dancing to and singing "Respect" as it played on the loudspeaker.
The Rebels earned respect by never backing down in the third game.
Lilly had a block kill from the middle to give South a 19-18 lead, gave up a point when her tipped block fell to the floor, then came back with a tip kill to keep the Rebels in the game.
"We try not to give up no matter what kind of hole we dig ourselves into," said Lilly, a 6-foot-2 middle. "Our coach encourages us to never give up. She tells us if we are going to win, we should never lose our positivity."