Terre Haute South fought through a fairly competitive first game before winning 25-15, then put the hammer down.

The Braves blasted Decatur Central 25-5 and 25-11 in games 2 and 3 to earn a win in the IHSAA Class 4A Mooresville volleyball sectional Thursday evening.

Courtney Jones and Lilly Merk led South’s offensive attack with 14 and 10 kills respectively, while Mia Loyd dished out 31 assists and contributed eight digs. Jones also had eight digs and Emma Hopper served five aces.

“We played really well,” assessed Jones, a 6-foot junior. “We’re looking forward to a competitive match Saturday.”

That match will be against Brownsburg, which knocked off the host Pioneers 25-14, 25-18, 25-20 in the nightcap Thursday.

South (22-9) and Brownsburg (20-12) did not face each other during the regular season.

On Thursday, the Braves played near-perfect volleyball.

“I thought we served very well,” South coach Libbi Fougerousse told the Tribune-Star.

“I thought our setter, [freshman] Mia Loyd, moved the ball around a lot on offense. I feel like our defense was pretty good.”

Fougerousse also described the victory as a “break-out match” for Merk, a 6-0 freshman who posted four blocks and two aces in addition to her 10 kills.

“She had a very good match,” the Braves’ coach emphasized. “We’ve been working with her a lot in practice.”

In Game 1 against Decatur Central, South turned a 3-3 tie into a 9-3 lead on a run keyed by Hopper’s serving. The Hawks later pulled within 11-9, but the Braves padded their cushion to 16-9 with the help of a Jones kill, a Kaylee McDonald kill and a pair of aces served by the versatile Merk.

Four more Jones kills boosted South’s advantage to 22-13 and another McDonald kill put the finishing touch on the Game 1 triumph.

The next two games weren’t so difficult for Fougerousse’s squad.

In Game 2, South was up 9-1 almost before spectators could blink their eyes. Two more Jones kills and two Loyd aces were keys to the Braves’ outburst after they fell behind 1-0.

The margins increased to 14-2 and 19-3 before South coasted to the 20-point win.

Decatur Central jumped ahead 4-3 in Game 3, but it didn’t take long for the Braves to rally behind three kills from Merk and one kill each from Jones and McDonald to catapult on top 12-6.

Another Merk kill — giving her four in the third game — and a Merk ace helped increase South’s lead to 16-8. From then on, there was little to no doubt which team would win the game or match.

The same cannot be said for Saturday’s clash with Brownsburg, which will follow the 11 a.m. Avon vs. Plainfield semifinal.

“We know that they’re a very solid team,” Fougerousse said of the Bulldogs. “So we will have to come out better than we did [Thursday].

“We’ll have to bring our A-game.”

General reporter/Sports reporter

David is a longtime Tribune-Star sportswriter whose primary duties were switched to the news department in late 2015. A cancer survivor, he enjoys hanging out with his family and staying fit with regular trips to the gym.

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