Saturday, September 01, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Wildcats top Cabot in three

Leader sportswriter

After a near double-digit win for North Little Rock in the first game of Thursday’s volleyball match with Cabot, the Lady Panthers gave the Lady Charging Wildcats all they could handle in the next two games, but fell just short in both as North Little Rock won the match 25-16, 26-24, 26-24 at Panther Arena.

Cabot never led in game one, but managed to stay within striking distance until the Wildcats reached the 20-point mark. Leading 20-15, NLR outscored Cabot 5-1 down the stretch and took the game on a kill from senior outside hitter Kelsie Claussen.

North Little Rock’s momentum carried over in the second game. Lady Wildcats jumped out to an 8-2 lead, forcing a Cabot timeout. However, North Little Rock stayed in control and appeared to be on its way to a lopsided win after leading 21-12. But the Lady Panthers scrapped their way back into the game.

Cabot scored the next point and with junior middle blocker Lakin Best serving, Cabot went on a furious 7-2 run to cut North Little Rock’s lead to three. The Lady Charging Wildcats scored the next point to lead 24-20, but Cabot’s Bailee Uhiren picked up a kill that sparked the Lady Panthers to go on another run and tie the score at 24.

Best nearly gave Cabot its first lead of the game as she went for a kill at the middle of the net, but senior middle blocker Keedra Johnson timed the attempt just right and blocked the ball back over the net, giving North Little Rock the lead once again.

Johnson closed the game for North Little Rock with a kill on the next serve, and the Lady Charging Wildcats earned the close 26-24 win.

“At first they got a little sloppy,” said Lady Charging Wildcats coach Becky Mat-thews about the close win. “They got a little slacked and a little lazy, and they weren’t moving their feet. I got a little mad in the huddle and I think that sparked them a little bit. A couple of the girls were a little angry too, and I think it just came down to they really wanted it badly.”

Down two games to none, Cabot’s spirits could’ve been weakened after such a heartbreaking loss, but the team kept scrapping with the athletic Lady Charging Wildcats in the third game. The two teams traded leads until Cabot’s senior setter Brylee Staten picked up back-to-back aces on serves, which gave the Lady Panthers a 9-7 lead.

After Staten’s aces, Cabot went on a 5-1 run to lead 14-8. It was the largest lead Cabot would have for the remainder of the game. The Lady Panthers continued to score, but the Wildcats kept the margin close. Cabot gained the advantage late, leading 20-16, but the Lady Charging Wildcats quickly cut the Lady Panthers’ lead to one after scoring the next three points.

Cabot then picked up two points in a row to lead 22-19. NLR scored again, but Cabot answered with another score to lead 23-20. The Lady Charging Wildcats responded by scoring the next four points to grab a 24-23 lead – their first since leading 7-6 in the game.

The Lady Panthers answered with a clutch kill from Best to tie the score at 24, but North Little Rock regained the lead with a kill from Keandra Tillman. Johnson closed the game again for North Little Rock with a kill over the middle of the net that gave the Lady Charging Wildcats another hard-earned 26-24 win.

“That’s the best we’ve ever played mentally,” said Cabot coach DeAnna Campbell. “That’s the hardest we’ve ever attacked, the hardest we’ve ever gone for something. The first game they were trying to get the timing down, because we haven’t seen anything like (NLR). But now they know they can play with those girls. Sometimes we just don’t have a lot of luck, but if we keep fighting like that we’re going to win.”

Johnson led North Little Rock with 16 kills to go with eight blocks. Claussen had 10 kills while senior setter Katie Drake had 18 assists for the Lady Charging Wildcats. Uhiren led Cabot in kills and assists with nine each. Taylor Bitely had eight kills and six blocks for the Lady Panthers. Best finished the match with seven kills and eight blocks.