Moments of solid play for Terre Haute South were outweighed by the size and power of Brownsburg in Saturday afternoon's semifinal match of the Class 4A Mooresville Sectional in high school volleyball, and the Braves' outstanding season ended with a 25-15, 25-15, 25-18 loss.
The Bulldogs, who earned a berth in the championship match with perennial winner Avon later in the day, almost always had three 6-footers on the court — none of whom was the team's middle. South has three 6-footers of its own — Courtney Jones, Lilly Merk and Mikaila Sullivan — but Jones is the only one of the three to play every rotation and Merk is a freshman, albeit a very promising freshman.
"[Brownsburg was] definitely taller, and probably older as well," a red-eyed South coach Libbi Fougerousse said afterward, "but I can't be anything but proud. These [South] girls had a very successful season, a turnaround season.
"They hadn't played on a winning team before, but we showed everyone what we can do . . . and we have a lot of young talent."
The Braves battled back from a 5-2 deficit to take an 8-7 lead in the first set, with Jones getting two kills and Kaylee McDonald one, but then the runs that the Bulldogs would make all day started happening. Brownsburg led 13-9, then 16-10 and then — after the teams had traded single points eight times in a row — got the last four points to take a 1-0 lead.
South had its best stretch in the second set — followed by its worst stretch. After fighting back from a 5-0 deficit to take a 10-9 lead — four kills by Jones, two blocks and a kill by Merk in that 10-4 run — the Braves looked ready to even the match. But after a kill by South's Reagan Ealy tied the score at 11, Brownsburg went on a 12-1 run, capped by a frustrating three aces in a row served by Bulldog setter Cate Murphy.
The Brownsburg runs came earlier in the final set. After battling back to within 5-4 and 7-5, the Braves were victimized by a 7-0 run for a 14-5 deficit, then a 4-0 run that put the Bulldogs ahead 19-8. South cut the lead to six points twice but got no closer.
Jones had 16 kills and 12 digs to lead the Braves, while freshman setter Mia Loyd had 22 assists. Every Brave but one can return next season.
"It will hurt not having our senior [Sullivan, who had three kills and three blocks] back next year," Fougerousse said, "but I'm looking forward to seeing how these girls grow and develop during travel season."
• Names of note — Brownsburg's Quinci Thomas had a team-high 20 kills as her family continues to torment the Braves. Two of her older brothers have played basketball against South, with Pierce Thomas — he of the 40-plus-inch vertical jump — still having one more season to do so. Their mother, the former Amy Brauman, almost single-handedly defeated the Braves in a girls basketball semistate championship game almost 30 years ago.
Torment of a different sort for South fans may have happened as Avon was defeating Plainfield in Saturday's earlier semifinal match. One of the key hitters for the Orioles is senior Abby Maesch, who played with some of the Braves while at Honey Creek Middle School. She and her sister Alexis, an Oriole freshman reserve, are the daughters of Ernie Maesch.
Terre Haute South=15=15=18
Highlights — For South, Courtney Jones had 16 kills, 12 digs, an assist, 8 points and an ace; Mia Loyd 22 assists, 6 digs, 2 kills and a point; Emma Hopper 9 digs, 2 assists and 4 points; Mikaila Sullivan 3 kills, 3 blocks and a dig; Gaby Pineda 2 digs and 4 points; Ashlyn Swan 3 digs and 2 points; Lilly Merk 3 blocks and 2 kills; Reagan Ealy 3 kills and a dig; and Kaylee McDonald 2 assists and a kill.
For Brownsburg, Cate Murphy had 35 assists, a kill, 19 points and 5 aces; Quinci Thomas 20 kills and 3 points; Kendall Meller 9 kills, a block and 2 points; and Audrey Naberhaus 8 kills and 3 blocks.
Next — Brownsburg (21-12) played Avon in Saturday night's championship match. Terre Haute South finished 22-10.