Saturday, September 29, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot nearly breaks barrier

Leader sports editor

A couple of Cabot lapses and solid Marion defense led to a Lady Patriot win Thursday in a 7A/6A East volleyball matchup at Panther Arena. Marion won 3-1 with Cabot taking the opening set. Scores were 25-27, 25-11, 25-16 and 25-21.

The Lady Panthers cruised to an easy win on Tuesday against Searcy, but head coach DeAnna Campbell said Thursday was her team’s best effort of the season.

“We executed better than we have all year long,” Campbell said. “Marion was just digging up everything. Our back row play was outstanding. We had a lot of long, long rallies. Marion is a little faster in their transitions than we are and they usually would ultimately win those rallies. That’s just from having such an established program and having so much more experience. But this match is proof to me that this team is really improving. We’re so close to knocking off one of those top teams.”

Proof of the numerous long rallies was found in the length of the match, which lasted two hours.

“I think our conditioning showed tonight too,” Campbell said. “We were rallying at the end of game four and just had some bad breaks. But fatigue did not seem to be a factor.”

While there was no physical letdown in game two, there may have been an emotional one for the Lady Panthers. After winning game one, Cabot committed several unforced errors as Marion cruised to an easy win in game two.

The two teams were neck and neck for most of game three before an old bad habit bit Cabot. Marion called timeout with the score tied at 15. After the break, the Lady Patriots outscored Cabot 10-1 to win the game and take a 2-1 lead.

“That’s something that we’ve struggled with all season against the really good teams,” Campbell said. “We’re sticking right with them and then all of a sudden we fall apart on our serve return. One girl served seven straight points on us.”

Cabot fell behind 16-11 in game four before mounting a rally that made for an exciting end.

The turning point came at 20-18 when Cabot caught two bad breaks on the same point.

Cabot felt Marion got six touches to get the ball over after a Patriot outside hitter slammed her kill attempt into the net. The officials ruled the ball was blocked by Cabot and play continued. Marion was still unable to set up another kill attempt, and had to push the ball over. The ball would have landed out, but Cabot kept it in play and Marion won the point.

“That point was huge because if we get that it’s 20-19 and we’re serving instead of 21-18 and they’re serving,” Campbell said. “If we could have gotten it to a fifth game, who knows what might’ve happened. I think we definitely would have had the momentum.”

The two matches leave Cabot 7-11 overall and 3-5 in conference play. The Lady Panthers are currently in fifth place and in good position to make the playoffs.

North Little Rock and Mountain Home are tied for the league lead at 7-1. Jonesboro and Marion are tied for second at 6-2.

Little Rock Central is sixth. West Memphis has beaten only Searcy and the Lady Lions are winless and in last place.

Cabot travels to North Little Rock on Tuesday and hosts West Memphis next Thursday.