With a pair of convincing wins against Crothersville and Shoals, the Trinity Lutheran volleyball team retained the Cougar Invitational crown during a round-robin tournament play on Saturday.

The Cougars opened with a 25-8, 25-13 over the Jackson County-rival Tigers.

Both teams battled at the start until a kill by Abby Hackman gave the Cougars a 6-5 lead.

The Cougars then strung together three-straight points before winning nine consecutive points to go up 18-8.

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Following a kill by Haylee Barker, the Cougars cruised to four-straight points to win the game.

Retaining momentum, the Cougars opened a 6-0 lead behind serves from Anne Franke.

A kill by the Tigers’ Kashmir Kelshaw ended the run, but the Cougars couldn’t be tamed as they took a 15-4 margin before winning 25-13.

“We had spurts,” Tigers coach Linda Luedeman said. “Even though the score didn’t reflect it, I was proud of them. We were working with a different lineup today, so we had to change things up. They were able to execute, but had a little lack of execution on some of the balls.”

In game two for the champions, the Cougars bested Shoals 25-17, 25-14.

Hailley Peters made all seven of her hits with five kills and Haylee Barker was a perfect six-for-six with four kills in the win.

Barker also made all nine of her serves with an ace while Hayley Carter went 11 of 13 with two aces to lead from the back line.

“It feels awesome,” Cougars coach Chelsea Stroub said. “I think we played really well. We worked on decreasing our errors and playing quicker. We’re doing pretty good.

“We’re focusing on our side right now. We focused on the same game plan as last time.”

The Cougars (12-7) have played a variety of opponents this past week, which included top-15 ranked Hauser.

“It’s a huge part of coaching, keeping them focused,” Stroub said. “We just need to focus on our side. We never want to play down to an opponent. That’s the hardest thing. We want to make sure we’re not hitting it out and making stupid errors.”

With the season winding down, Stroub wants her team to focus on their side of play.

“I’m looking for us to come out strong every time we go out on the court,” Stroub said. “Right now, we need to not worry about who’s on the other side. If we focus on how we play, it shouldn’t matter who’s on the other side of the net.”

The Tigers failed to pick up a win on the day, losing to Trinity Lutheran’s junior varsity team 25-17, 23-25, 15-11 and Shoals 14-25, 25-18, 15-13.

Without one of their strongest hitters, Katrina Christian, the Tigers had to adjust their play.

“We didn’t attack the ball as much as we should have,” Luedeman said. “We know when we attack the ball, and hit it, we score more points. We’re young and hope to work through that. We need to run our offense and not have to focus on defense so much.”

The Tigers (6-11) will play Medora and Columbus Christian this week.

“We want to play teams in our class so we can better prepare for the sectional,” Luedeman said. “We like playing teams in our own tourney.”

Luedeman said the Cougar Cup had a strong group of teams in the mix.

“The competition was excellent,” she said. “It was nice to see Shoals, because we haven’t played them before.”

Trinity’s JV team played in the tournament in place of Brown County, who withdrew from play earlier this fall.

The JV (10-2) team didn’t face the Cougars’ varsity squad, and lost to Shoals 25-23, 22-25, 15-8 after downing the Tigers to finish 1-1 on the day.

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Jordan Morey is sports editor at The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at jmorey@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.