Coming off a four-set win at Pleasant Grove, the Class 3A Prairiland Lady Patriots looked to score another road win against a Class 4A opponent on the road. With that, the Lady Patriots traveled to North Lamar and recorded an impressive win in straight sets over the Pantherettes by a final score of 25-18, 25-11, and 25-19.
Prairiland looked impressive from the opening serve in North Lamar’s gymnasium, keyed by a dominant showing from the Lady Patriot front line players. The Lady Patriots did not just bring the heat offensively up front, but the defense was a catalyst, too.
“Our blocking was pretty solid in this game,” Lady Patriots head volleyball coach Emily Vanderburg said. “We’ve been trying to stress defense and blocking is a part of that. After playing PG then these guys, it really helped us. We had to move across the net a lot quicker against PG, which really helped us against North Lamar in this game and get solid blocks.”
A season ago, Prairiland was on the receiving end of a surprising sweep at home at the hands of the Pantherettes, who were paced by excellent front line play and a near-impenetrable defense. This time, Prairiland returned the favor with all hands on deck.
“I think that last year’s team had a lot of good talented players and losing a lot of them was going to be a lot harder than it has been,” Prairiland junior middle blocker Abi Farmer said. “We learned a lot from the girls before us, which has helped make the transition a lot easier, and I think the sophomores and freshmen on varsity have really helped our team and adapted well. They’re very open to new ideas and having everyone help them.”
Prairiland grabbed the first set after nearly blowing a large lead but did not run into a similar issue in the second frame. A big block from senior middle Reese Parris pushed the road team’s advantage to 13-5, and later she aced a serve to make it 19-8. Back to back kills from senior middle T.J. Folse pushed Prairiland’s lead to 22-9 a few points later, and the Lady Pats cruised to victory in the second set at 25-11.
North Lamar did not lay down in the match in the third and final set. Behind quality play from a scrappy back-row defense, the Pantherettes kept it close until the end.
“I think that defensively, our back row is really scrappy and they work really, really hard,” Pantherettes head volleyball coach Sara Beth Upchurch said. “There’s never a doubt in my mind that they’re able to come into the bleachers to get a ball, and that really translates into the rest of our game.”
With the score tied at 11-all, Prairiland threw a block party during a quick 5-0 run with two of the stuff blocks coming from Farmer. Kills from Erica King and Ashley Trenchard pulled North Lamar within three on two occasions, and junior middle Hannah Titlow hit a nice ball down the line to make it an 18-17 deficit. However, with the score at 22-19, a North Lamar error, a kill from Prairiland junior outside hitter Ali Sessums, and a block from Farmer ended the match.
“Beating North Lamar was a big confidence booster for sure,” Farmer said. “They are the only team in the county that we haven’t beaten yet this season, and I think this is a real eye-opener on how good we can play if we continue to play together.”
Folse led the charge with 11 kills, 1 block, and 1 ace, while Farmer and Sessums finished with 5 kills apiece. Farmer also recorded 4 blocks, while Sessums had an ace and 8 digs. Parris poured in 3 kills, 3 digs, 4 blocks, and 2 aces, while Chloe Raley finished with 14 assists, 5 digs, and 1 ace. Hanna Cope recorded 12 assists, while Kyndal Yaross added 6 digs. Lanna Riney shored up the defense with 8 digs.
Trenchard led North Lamar in the loss with 7 kills, 4 digs, and 2 blocks, while Macy Richardson added 3 kills, 5 digs, and 1 block. Hutton Pointer recorded 3 kills and 3 blocks, while Logan Dougherty finished with 8 blocks. Noel Rainey tallied 2 aces, 1 assist, and 8 digs, while King finished with 2 kills and 2 digs. Emma Layton chipped in with 3 digs, while Emma Doyal totaled 4 assists, 3 digs, and 1 ace. Abby Neilsen ended the match with 9 assists and 2 digs.
The Lady Patriots look to continue building momentum off a strong weekend showing, while the Pantherettes aim to bounce back and get back in sync to get their promising season back on course.
“We’ve been able to jump right in,” Vanderburg said. “I feel like the work we did over the summer really helped us out in being able to gel a little bit better as a team. Being able to play as a team is a really huge part of the game, and us being able to play together and gelling fairly well has really helped us in winning some of these games.”
“Practices are going to be a really big deal,” Upchurch said. “We’ve got to keep working on our serves and really continue to learn with a lot of people in new positions. We’re going to have to learn what to do in certain situations when a team is being super aggressive against you. We’re playing a lot of defense and not really getting an offense going, so we’re just going to need to spend this next week learning about the game and what to do in different situations.”
The Lady Patriots will take the court again at 6 p.m. Tuesday at home against Spring Hill, while the Pantherettes will take on Celina at 6 p.m. Tuesday at North Lamar.