Saturday, September 15, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers earn their first win in 7A East

Leader sports editor

The Cabot volleyball players have been the road warriors since conference play began last week. Three of its first four games have been on the road, but a lengthy trip garnered a victory when the Lady Panthers beat West Memphis in straight sets. It was Cabot’s first league win of the season, but the jubilation didn’t last. The Lady Panthers packed up and went to Jonesboro on Thursday where they were beaten in straight sets by the Golden Hurricanes.

Cabot coach Deanne Campbell still thinks her junior-laden team can build on its first 7A/6A East victory.

“Jonesboro is so good and so experienced, we’re just not where they are yet, but we’re getting there,” Campbell said. “Against West Memphis I feel like fundamentally, it was the best we’ve looked.”

Tuesday’s win over the Lady Blue Devils was Cabot’s from start to finish. The Lady Panthers won by scores of 25-16 and 25-15 twice. Juniors Lakin Best and Bailea Uhiren continued to lead the team in kills with senior Brilee Staten setting the hits. But junior Raven Gilbert is becoming a contributor as well.

“Gilbert is starting to get some time with varsity because her swing is really coming along,” Campbell said. “We have a lot of players that have really improved, including our varsity players. West Memphis was the first time we’ve come out and taken control and been in control the whole match. There have been moments against even some of the top teams when we’ve taken control, but then couldn’t hold it. But in that match our blocks were there, our sets were there, passes, serves. It was a really good outing.”

Cabot played closely with the Lady Hurricane, save for one exception. Jonesboro’s Nikki Tagupa’s serve was more than the Lady Panthers could handle. In each of the three games, the score was even when Tagupa took serve and scored eight-straight points.

“She has a really sharp curve on her serve and we’ve never seen anything like that,” Campbell said. “That’s what I mean by the experience other teams have. One of my best seniors came up to me during the match and said, ‘coach I’ve never seen that before.’ That was a learning experience and something that’s just going to make us better. The great thing about this group is they never get down and never quit. After a loss, they talk and try to figure how they can learn and get better from it.”

The traveling Panthers aren’t finished with the windshield time just yet. They take part in the Russellville tournament today. Cabot’s is pooled with Russellville, Lonoke and Springdale and its first match is at 9 a.m.

The second pool consists of Bryant, Alma, Waldron and CAC, while the final pool features Morrilton, Little Rock Central, Beebe and Mount St. Mary’s. The Lady Panthers finally play home match on Tuesday when they take on Mountain Home.