After Greenwood dropped the first two sets in Tuesday’s District 14 volleyball match with visiting South Warren, Lady Gators coach Allen Whittinghill made sure his team took a moment to just relax -- then told his team to go out and have fun.

Greenwood responded in a big way, rallying back to beat the Spartans 3-2 (25-27, 22-25, 25-16, 25-22, 15-4). The Lady Gators climbed back in the game with a strong third set, then held off South Warren late in the fourth set before dominating the final set.

“You look to be tested,” Whittinghill said. “We had some good matches with some pretty good teams, but that was a test.

“... It was just a great test for us. At one point, you couldn’t see me smiling because I have the mask on, but I was having a ball. This was a great adventure for them and I hope they all soak it in.”

Greenwood senior hitter Katie Howard said once the team relaxed, they were able to rally and pick up a win against a team it has faced in six straight Region 4 title games.

“It definitely helps us when we are having more fun,” Howard said. “The games where we don’t have fun and are trying to be super serious and intense are the games we end up not competing as well in. When we have fun, we play more relaxed and not as timid.”

Greenwood (3-4 overall, 3-0 District 14) led for most of the first set -- including late when Aubrey Packer’s kill made the score 22-20. South Warren (3-2, 3-1) was able to rally, scoring three straight to take the lead. The Spartans had two set points that ended in service error before Greenwood’s seventh service error of the set gave South Warren a third set point and the Spartans were able to close it out.

The Lady Gators led by as much as five points early in the second set, but South Warren was able to come back -- with Kara Gipson’s kill fueling a 6-2 spurt that pushed the Spartans in front 23-19. Greenwood was unable to get closer than two points the rest of the set.

Greenwood never trailed in the third set, jumping ahead 10-5 and pulling away from there.

South Warren opened the fourth set with a kill from Maddie Rockrohr, but Greenwood scored the next seven points to take control. After recording 10 kills in the first three sets, Howard had eight kills in the fourth -- helping Greenwood take a 22-15 lead. But South Warren would try to rally, getting the deficit down to 23-22 before Greenwood was able to close it out and force a fifth set.

“The fourth set was so key because they made a push,” Whittinghill said. “(For) a lot of teams that is a moment of truth right there. How are you going to react when you are up and the other team gets back in the ball game? I thought we reacted great.”

Greenwood scored the first two points in the fifth set, but South Warren scored the next two to tie the score. It was all Greenwood from there as the Lady Gators scored five straight to take the lead for good and completed the comeback by scoring the final six points.

“I felt like our energy level went up,” Whittinghill said. “It was a lot of fun. We got a little too serious, a little tight. Once we started having some fun I thought we really came through.”

Howard led the Lady Gators with 22 kills. Olivia Overmohle added 12 kills and Packer finished with 10 kills.

Rockrohr and Paige Logsdon had 14 kills each for the Spartans.

“We stopped passing,” South Warren coach Lindsey Sheffield said. “We were running our offense from behind the 10-foot line and playing against a team like Greenwood you can’t do that. I don’t know if they just came out serving more aggressively in that third set or what, but we just weren’t able to get the ball in Sydney (Clayton’s) hands to run the offense.

“We did gut it and we came back in that fourth set, but Greenwood is a really good team.”

Both teams return to action Thursday against district opponents. Greenwood will play at Warren Central, while South Warren travels to Bowling Green.

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