LANSING | T.F. South's authoritative victory over longtime rival T.F. North on Thursday was brought to fans courtesy of the letter 'D.'
The Rebels used consistently effective defense near the net, plus commendable offense, to catapult past the Meteors 25-18, 25-14. South improved to 9-13 overall following the win, further distancing itself from its shaky season start.
Rebels coach Kim Sands attributed her team's continued progress to strengthened on-court chemistry and added that growth paid dividends against North.
"We played more aggressively today (than we have been), which helped us earn the win," Sands said. "Since North's a rival, it's always a good win, especially since they're getting better every year."
The initial stages of the first game found both teams struggling to develop any sort of advantage. However, after the Meteors grabbed a 5-4 edge, South responded with a 12-2 run to take command. North was able to cut the Rebels' lead to six late in the game, but the large deficit ultimately proved too much for the visitors to overcome.
South opened the second set on a 12-3 tear, but a 9-5 Meteors run helped North stay in the game. The Rebels' tough defense came through down the stretch, though, as the home team allowed only two more Meteors points.
Key players for South were Sarah Kessler and Destiny Little (five kills each), Brittany Krusza (three blocks, five kills) and Gabbe Mullen (15 assists).
Little expressed how important it was for the Rebels to establish a reliable defensive presence early in the match.
"We did a lot of blocking work (in practice) that paid off today," she said. "We lacked momentum (earlier this season), and now we're just making it happen and playing (well) together."
Krusza echoed her teammate's remarks and added that defeating North served as a major confidence builder for South.
"Everyone was nervous because we have high expectations (for ourselves), but we came in with high energy and dominated today," she said. "We need to continue to practice hard (going forward) and stay close together like a family."
The Meteors dropped to 7-11 on the year after the loss but received strong showings from Chinyere Ozoh (five kills) and Kinzie Hillis and RaeJean Houston (two kills each).
North coach LaShaunda Bryce said her team always strives for improvement.
"Throughout the season, we've been making progress toward (getting) a better (overall) record," she said. "If we keep working hard, we'll be successful."