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Pieces finally come together for Neal girls

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
They had a couple of red hot servers, some tough hitting up front and kept their defensive mistakes to a minimum.
That may not sound a whole lot like the W.S. Neal Lady Blue Eagles volleyball team that played the first 19 games of this season, but it was the version that showed up in Thursday's regular season finale.
W.S. Neal halted a 13-game losing losing streak in convincing fashion, as it put away the visiting Escambia County Lady Blue Devils 25-18, 25-15, 25-15. Ironically, the Lady Blue Eagles' last victory was also against Escambia County back on September 18.
"It was by far our best game of the season. We did everything well," W.S. Neal coach Kraig Rittenhouse said. "The way we played today makes the rest of the season more frustrating because we've been capable of playing like this all along."
Sophomore Amanda Ziglar tallied 18 service points to lead the Lady Blue Eagles (3-17), three of which were aces. Ziglar had 12 of those in the first set win.
Senior Reshena Young recorded 14 points with five aces. Young did most of her damage in the second set when she posted 10 points, half of which were aces.
"Serving has been a weak spot for us all season, but we came through with 14 aces in this match. We had a few missed serves, but it wasn't a glaring amount," Rittenhouse said.
Serving was not the only area where the Lady Blue Eagles improved their play. Junior Jullian Crutchfield notched a team high seven kills, four of which came in the third set.
"We were a lot more aggressive at the net, especially Jullian," Rittenhouse said. "Abbie Howard also had some big hits for us."
Although most of her effort did not show up in the statistics, Rittenhouse also gave a lot of credit to junior Brittany Tagudar.
"Brittany played outstanding defense, but she has done that all season. She makes so many saves for us," Rittenhouse said.
One area that especially pleased the W.S. Neal coach was his team's killer instinct.
"It was great to see us put them away in three sets after we won the first two. We've had some matches where we've won the first set. Then we'll struggle, lose the second set and never recover," Rittenhouse said.
The Lady Blue Eagles suffered a 25-12, 25-6 setback to Clarke County and a 25-8, 25-7 loss to Sumter County in Tuesday's quad-match at Clarke County.
In the opener against Clarke County, Howard led the Lady Blue Eagles in set one with four points, while Young added three. Ziglar and Jennifer Partridge each tallied two points in set two.
While points were tough for W.S. Neal to get against Clarke County, they were even tougher in the Sumter County match.
Howard and Young each had two points in the opening set for W.S. Neal, while Young and Crutchfield both had two in the second set.
The Lady Blue Eagles will return to Clarke County Monday for the opening round of the Area Tournament. W.S. Neal drew a rematch against Clarke County at 2 p.m.