BEREA -- The Lady Eagles may have started off sluggish, but they finished strong.
The Madison Southern volleyball team dropped the first set, but claimed the next three to take a 3-1 victory over cross-county rival Madison Central on Tuesday at home.
The Lady Eagles won with scores of 22-25, 25-16, 25-18 and 25-7 in the annual Mad Pink Game.
Not only did the Lady Eagles (19-3) earn a victory on Senior Night, the win also expanded their win streak to 10 games.
With their second win of the season over their longtime rivals, the Lady Eagles also all but clinched the top seed in the 44th district tournament.
"We have to beat Model next week, but we have a chance to maybe go undefeated in the district for the first time ever. It's great to get the win, especially after we went down in the first set. We came back and played pretty well by the final set," Southern coach Jeremy Grant said.
The Lady Indians (5-20) came ready to fight on Tuesday.
Central took an early 11-9 lead in the first set in which they capitalized on a couple of service errors.
A kill by Southern senior Alyssa Evans tied it up 11-11, but Central's Sophie Hiles made an ace to push the Lady Indians ahead once more.
A missed dig by Southern put Central ahead 24-22 and the Lady Indians took the set when Evans smacked a ball at the net out of bounds.
"They were kind of sleepwalking," Grant said of his players in the first set. "Between hitting errors and serving errors we gave Central 15 points. I think the serving got better as the night went on, but that first set we couldn't get into a flow."
In the second set, the Lady Indians raced out once again to a 5-2 lead.
A frustrated Grant then called a timeout to try and rally his players.
"I was a little angry. This is the biggest game of the year -- they've been talking about it for a while. There was not any intensity and energy. I told them, '(Central) is outplaying you.' They were ready to go and they out-hustled us. They were scrappy. I told them they had to get it together," Grant explained.
The Lady Eagles responded.
Kennedy Easterling delivered an ace to help Southern tie the set 6-6 and a string of kills from Hannah Martin pushed the Lady Eagles ahead 19-10 -- forcing Central into a timeout.
The Lady Indians found some momentum, as Southern stalled with just one point to go, but the Lady Eagles still took the set.
The teams continued to battle back-and-forth in the third set and after the Lady Eagles built up a 10-6 lead, Central came storming back to tie the game back up again thanks to a kill from Vespera Meadows.
Southern stepped on the gas and Sarah Mitchell had back-to-back aces to get the Lady Eagles back on track and to victory.
In the final set, it was all Lady Eagles.
Southern rallied back from a 5-2 deficit brought about by an ace from Central's Haven Combs.
Southern took control and went on a scoring run to pull ahead 17-6.
Central was only able to score one more point as the Lady Eagles rolled to victory backed by a series of excellent serves from Avery St John.
Grant said he warned his players not to cool down in the final set.
"I told them, 'You know its not over and you have to keep fighting.' They had a chance. We were up 2-1, but we've been on the other side of that against Central and know that you can come back and tie it up and then win the game."
This time, the Lady Eagles held on to prevent a five-set match.
"By the end, we were on a run, but Central made us earn every point," Grant said.
Mitchell agreed as she noted the team's hitters had trouble making kills against a fast and determine Lady Indian's team.
"Central is really scrappy. One thing for sure -- they can keep the ball off the ground. So we had to figure out how to get the ball past them," Mitchell explained.
For Southern, Evans had 17 kills, 15 digs and one ace. Mitchell had 15 kills, 21 digs and four aces. Hannah Martin had 10 kills and three blocks. Kyla Atkins had 27 assists, six digs, three kills and three aces. Kennedy Easterling had 22 assists and six aces. Autumn Griffith had 12 digs and two aces. Avery St John had five digs, three kills and three aces. Julia Bingham had one kill and a dig.
Combs had a team-high seven kills for Central and three aces.
Hiles had four kills. Macalia Morin had three kills and 14 digs. Avery Rigney had two kills and one dig.
Reagan Wiseman had 14 assists.
Southern will face Garrard County next tonight in Lancaster, while Central will face Berea Community Thursday in Berea.