Veteran leadership helped propel Southmont past Crawfordsville in a five-set thriller 3-2 (20-25, 25-16, 22-25, 15-13) to secure the Montgomery County volleyball title and give the Mounties another pair of Journal Review County Chase points on Tuesday evening.

“The fact that the girls feel comfortable and the fact that they feel confident going into that fifth set is huge,” Southmont coach Lauran Nichols said. “Lexi (Nelson) was fantastic in that fifth set and really put the ball down. Most of our girls have played at this level for three or four years so that his huge when going into a fifth set against a great team, and when you’re at their place.”

Led by senior Lexi Nelson’s 26 kills, it was the Mountie’s big hitters that pushed Southmont (16-5, 3-3) over the edge. Kaley Remley added 21 kills, 21 digs, and eight aces.

The Athenians jumped out a controlled the first set, before the Mounties responded with two straight lopsided wins and took an early 10-6 lead in the fourth set with all the momentum on their side. 

Crawfordsville (10-8, 2-1) never wavered though, fighting and clawing back into it, before tying it at 19-19, and eventually winning the set 25-22 to force a fifth and decisive set.

“In my opinion, yes give South credit for winning the county, but there were no losers in this gym tonight, and I’m very proud of my kids tonight,” Crawfordsville coach Kelly Johnson said. “We are young and we’ve got a long way to go. We are going to get better and better each time we hit the court.”

In the fifth set, the Athenians had a brief lead at 6-4, but once the Mounties went up 8-7, they never trailed again.

“It’s huge for our confidence,” Nichols said after the win. “Crawfordsville really pushed us to play good ball, and they played great ball the whole time. It’s great for our confidence to come in here and get a hard fought win. We preached that the whole time that they’ve got to work hard and play big, and not be scared and not be timid. So it was great to see the game plan go well.”

Sidney Veatch added 43 assists and three blocks for the Mounties, while Natalie Manion chipped in 29 digs.

Macy Bruton led the Athenians with 16 kills, 10 digs, and five aces, while Shea Williamson had 14 digs and 11 assists. Olivia Reed has 31 digs, and Laine Schlicher had 16 assists.

Johnson said her young Athenian squad can take a lot away from the match despite the loss.

“It’s great experience for us too,” she said. “These young kids did not give up. We have two freshmen and how many sophomores out there?”

Southmont travels to South Vermillion on Monday, while Crawfordsville travels to Fountain Central on Thursday.

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