LENOX — Up 2-1 after hammering Central Decatur 25-8 in game three, Lenox appeared to be on the verge of its first volleyball victory of the 2013 season here Thursday night.
Central Decatur, one game in front of the Tigers in the Pride of Iowa Conference standings, rose up and captured game four, 25-15, to force a fifth set.
Once again, Lenox was in a good position to finish off the victory, leading the shortened (15-point) fifth set early, 6-2.
That's when energized senior Caitlyn Saxton began to dominate some crucial points, finding holes in the Tiger defensive court as freshman Jentri Hullinger was reeling off four straight service points to give the Cardinals an 8-7 lead.
Bethany Christensen served Lenox to a 12-10 lead, just three points from match victory.
But there was one more Central Decatur resurgence. Two attack errors were untimely for Lenox, as the Cardinals moved in front, 14-13. Setter Jeals Elsberry served the next ball, and Hullinger powered the decisive kill shot for the 15-13 win, extinguishing Lenox's hopes for good.
The Cardinals improved to 2-6 overall and 2-3 in the Pride of Iowa. Lenox fell to 0-6 and 0-4.
"We had some pretty strong heart out there from our three seniors (Saxton, Elsberry and Kate Havens)," CD coach Joni Readout said. "With one of our starters (Hallie Linhart) injured, a lot of the time we had our three seniors taking three freshmen under their wing tonight."
Readout said without Linhart, Saxton's passing was even more crucial throughout the night. That allowed Ellsberry's setting to be distributed for some key kills on long rallies.
Havens, Hullinger and Saxton did most of the damage up front.
For Dukes, whose team hadn't won a set until a 3-1 loss to East Union Tuesday, it was a disappointing finish to an encouraging night.
"We should have won it," Dukes said. "We just found out our (best) rotation this week at East Union, and every time out now we're getting a little better. We just lost ourselves for awhile in our attack tonight."
Aurora Arevalo had 15 of Lenox's 33 kills Thursday, and a team-high 22 digs. She also served 13-of-13 with an ace. Shantelle Brown had a big serving night, posting seven aces while going 22-25.
When Lenox was rolling, such as a 15-5 lead in game one, and a 20-5 advantage in game three, the Tigers were dominant. But there wasn't enough consistency to bury the Cardinals then they had the chance.
"When we were playing well, we were communicating with each other and making plays," Dukes said. "They were in it. Aurora Arevelo had an outstanding night tonight. We just beat ourselves for awhile, and it cost us."