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PERSISTENCE IS KEY IN COUGARS VICTORY

Pitting last year's top county team (Countryside) against the team most felt would take over that title this season (East Lake), Tuesday's match promised to be one of the most entertaining of the year.

The action on the court certainly didn't disappoint.

Displaying a grit and determination that rattled the Eagles for much of the night, Countryside hung on for a 25-20, 27-25, 21-25, 28-26 win on the road.

One sequence in particular typified the Cougars' hunger.

Holding a 26-25 lead in Game 2 after rallying from a 21-15 deficit, Countryside (6-0) was hoping to take a 2-0 lead but looked like it would have to continue fighting after the Eagles' Lauran Eschenroeder sent a kill into an open spot on the Cougars' side of the net.

Everyone in the gym thought the point was over - everyone except Countryside's Davionna DiSalvatore.

DiSalvatore, a senior, dove onto the court and somehow got a fingertip underneath the ball as it hovered mere centimeters from the floor.

DiSalvatore put the ball back in play, allowing Countryside to extend the point, and when the Eagles' Ashley Goettel sent a spike long, the Cougars were ahead 2-0.

"We're so small, we have to play that way," Countryside coach Kaylyn Bayly said. "We have to play bigger. We've got to be stronger. We've got to be faster. We can't give up. All the same things we say over and over again, but you've got to put it out there. They did that tonight."

Again in Game 3, East Lake (3-1) built an early lead and was ahead 16-9 before the Cougars reeled off five points in a row. East Lake settled down to win Game 3 25-21, but it was apparent that no matter how big a lead the Eagles gained, Countryside would still be there in the end.

"We just didn't quit tonight," Bayly said. "When we don't quit, there's not too many people that can beat us."

Ahead 24-23 in Game 4, East Lake had a chance to force a fifth game, but the Cougars' Nicole Dunn sent a critical spike into the Eagles' open court to tie. Countryside closed out the victory after watching Jackie Wegner's kill sail long for the Eagles.

Christina Berry and DiSalvatore each had 16 kills to pace Countryside. DiSalvatore added 11 digs and Dunn had four blocks.

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