Saturday, October 27, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot sends seniors off with forceful win

Leader sports editor

Senior night was a night to remember for the four 12th-graders on the Cabot volleyball team. The Lady Panthers not only won their second consecutive match on Tuesday, but also won the fifth out of their last six, and did it against one of the best teams on their schedule, Lake Hamilton. The Lady Wolves came into the match 11-6 overall after finishing tied for second in the 7A/6A South conference. They left 11-7 after seeing Cabot erase a 1-0 deficit to win the last three games consecutively. Scores in the match were 15-25, 25-17, 25-22, 25-22.

“There’s no doubt Lake Hamilton is one of the best teams we’ve beaten,” Cabot coach DeAnna Campbell said. “They have everything. They’re tall, good middle and outside play, good defense, good passing. We played one of our best games all year.”

Leading the way for Cabot was senior libero Hannah Montgomery, who turned in one of the best performances of her career. She finished with 16 digs and eight points on serve. She also had one ace, a perfectly placed serve that landed right on the back line to end an exciting third game at 25-22 and give the Lady Panthers a 2-1 lead in the match.

“Hannah was just on fire,” Campbell said. “She’s one of only four seniors and it was so great to see her perform like that in her last home game and give an effort like that. She’s one of those players that gives everything she’s got in every game, but she was making some really great reads and getting to a lot of strong hits that I don’t think Lake Hamilton was used to seeing kept in play.”

As the scores indicate, the Lady Wolves dominated game one. Cabot struggled early, scoring just six points on serve the entire game. As poor as Cabot played in game one, Lake Hamilton was worse in game two, which saw the two teams break each other consecutively for more than half the game. Cabot did manage 10 points on serve in the game while the Lady Wolves got just three points while serving.

The sloppy play came to an end in game three, at least for Cabot. The Lady Panthers got 14 kills in game three after combing for just 18 in games one and two. Senior setter Brilee Staten found her groove and began setting up hitters all over the court.

“I thought Brylee did a great job not just of setting up one side or the other, but setting both sides and the middle,” Campbell said. “She was moving the ball around very well.”

The statistics prove Campbell’s assertion. Three Lady Panthers finished with at least 10 kills. Left outside hitter Lakin Best led the team with 16 kills while Bailee Uhiren and Taylor Bitely each had 10. Sophomore Haylee Callison and senior Sam Mantione each finished with five kills.

Senior defensive specialist Evye Pifer also got to several big hits by Lake Hamilton’s tall and athletic hitters.

“She’s just that solid, dependable player back there that’s not going to make mistakes,” Campbell said. “She also had a great match.”

After both teams traded sloppy play through games one and two, the match turned halfway through game three. Lake Hamilton ran out to a 13-8 lead before Cabot scored five straight points on Montgomery’s serve. She also had three digs during that service rotation while Best, Uhiren and Bitely had one kill each. The Lady Wolves broke serve once the game was tied, but Cabot broke right back with a big kill by Bitely, who then took serve. Six of Bitely’s 10 kills led directly to her service rotation. Once she took serve with the game tied at 14, she reeled off three service points, including two serves that were not returned at all and one ace.

Lake Hamilton rallied back to pull within 22-21 on an ace by Alyssa Stanfill, prompting Campbell to use a timeout. Cabot took three of the last four points, sealing with Montgomery’s ace.

Cabot’s first lead in game four came at 8-7, but that disappeared quickly as Lake Hamilton scored the next four points.

The Wolves’ lead stayed at three points to 10-13 before Cabot scored six in a row to take a 16-13 lead. Lake Hamilton then scored four consecutive to reclaim the lead, but Cabot scored four-straight after that to make it 20-17.

Sticking with the script, Lake Hamilton scored three straight to tie the game, and the two teams traded breaks from that point until 21-21.

Cabot controlled the action from there. Callison and Mantione blocked Lake Hamilton’s 6-foot-3 middle hitter Kori Bullard for the first time to make it 22-21. The Lady Panthers got a little luck for the next point.

Bullard got another big hit, which Mantione partially blocked. The ricochet bounced off Callison’s forearm, skimmed down the top of the net and fell into the Lady Wolves’ side of the court just inside the out-of-bounds line.

Lake Hamilton broke serve on a kill by Stanfill, but her subsequent serve was short and into the net, making it 24-22. Match point was a long one, ending with Bitely getting the game-winning kill.

The Lady Panthers (13-16) will play Springdale-Har-Ber in the first round of the state tournament at 12 p.m. Tuesday at Heritage High School in Rogers.