In their third district game Tuesday night, the North Lamar Pantherettes hosted the Pleasant Grove Lady Hawks. The match was decided by only seven total points over three sets, but it was the road team that emerged victorious. The Pantherettes fell to the Lady Hawks by a final score of 23-25, 22-25, and 28-30.
North Lamar held a lead late in each of the three sets, but closing out sets proved to be the Pantherettes’ downfall.
“I’m not going to lie and say that experience isn’t a factor,” North Lamar head volleyball coach Sara Beth Upchurch said. “I do think that is a good PG team that has played a lot more matches than we have this year, and they do have a lot more experience in terms of finishing a match. However, I do think these are things that we can fix and the girls really saw that. They were up the entire match. They really kept pushing forward. I think it’s good for our younger players to experience this early so they can correct it as we move towards the second round of district.”
The Pantherettes jumped out to a 5-0 lead to open the first set, which forced a Pleasant Grove timeout call. A few points later, North Lamar held an 11-2 lead after sophomore Maddie Walters pounded a kill to the hardwood. However, the Lady Hawks used a 7-1 scoring run to pull within 12-9 and force Upchurch to call a timeout.
Later in the set, junior middle blocker Hannah Titlow thumped the ball down for an emphatic kill to push North Lamar’s lead to 14-10, but the Lady Hawks stormed back to take a 19-18 lead on a 9-4 scoring run. Titlow recorded another kill as the start of a 3-0 run that put the home team ahead 21-19. Pleasant Grove called another timeout and it paid off this time as the visitors were able to close out the first set with a 6-2 run.
In the second set, North Lamar jumped out to another sizable lead. The Pantherettes held leads of 7-3, 16-11, and 20-15 in the set. However, Pleasant Grove followed the same script as the first set in making a strong comeback. The Lady Hawks went on a 7-2 run to tie the set at 22-all. After that, an ace and two powerful kills helped the visitors once again close out another tight set strongly.
The final act was the closest set in the match. North Lamar trailed PG 7-2 in the early going, but a 10-3 run from the Pantherettes gave the home team a 12-10 lead. North Lamar freshman Logan Dority capped off the scoring run with two aces. A few plays later, Pleasant Grove was forced to call a timeout after a tip from senior Macy Richardson and an ace from senior Emma Doyal increased North Lamar’s lead to 14-11.
Late in the set, the Lady Hawks tied the score at 22-22 and it seemed that the match was in hand for the road team as it increased the lead to 24-22. North Lamar was not done yet, though, as a kill and an ace from Richardson extended the game and tied the score at 24-all. Pleasant Grove held a one-point lead the next few points, but North Lamar tipped the scales by going ahead 28-27 after a Pleasant Grove attack sailed just wide of the boundary. However, the Lady Hawks benefitted from a North Lamar net violation on the following play and then scored the next two points to end the match in three sets.
Trenchard and Richardson led the charge for North Lamar in the loss. Each senior finished with 7 kills, while Richardson had 11 digs, 3 aces, and 1 block. Trenchard also added 3 digs, 2 aces, and 2 blocks. Senior libero Noel Rainey provided plenty of hustle and quality play in the back row as she finished with a team-high 16 digs to go with 1 assist and 3 aces.
Junior middle blocker Hutton Pointer compiled 5 kills, 13 blocks, and 1 ace, while Doyal recorded 1 kill, 13 assists, 5 digs, and 1 ace. Walters contributed with 3 kills, 1 dig, and 5 blocks, while Dority chipped in with 2 kills, 1 dig, 2 aces, and 9 blocks. Titlow tallied 4 kills and 4 blocks.
Despite the loss, the Pantherettes plan to move forward and remain both positive and focused as the district slate has just gotten underway.
“I had nothing negative to say,” Upchurch said. “I can’t say things negatively when they’re fighting for every single point. They’re the ones that haven’t gotten to play many games lately, and they’re still going for every single ball — how can I get mad at them for fighting hard, working, and building each other up? I just told them to please not give up and keep the faith. This district is very tough, very good, and I think it will be very split. I told them that this is still the first round, we have a ton of ball games left, and to please keep the faith.”
The Pantherettes face a strong test when they play again at 4:30 p.m. Friday at crosstown rival Paris. For more sports coverage, click here.