Monday, September 23, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panters rout LR Central in three

Leader sports editor

The Cabot volleyball team had a busy six days between last Saturday and Thursday, playing seven matches and closing it with an important conference rout of Little Rock Central at home on Thursday.

After going 2-2-1 at the Russellville Invitational over the weekend, the Lady Panthers lost 3-1 at Mountain Home on Tuesday, then dismantled the Lady Tigers 3-0 Thursday.

“It’s like jet lag,” Cabot coach DeAnna Campbell said after Thursday’s win. “The girls are so tired. I was really proud to see them come out pull it together like they did tonight. We started a little slow, but they came on strong and played a lot better.”

Scores in Thursday’s match were 25-18, 25-19 and 25-8 for Cabot, who got some help from inconsistent play by the Lady Tigers.

The Lady Panthers were also without starter Haylee Callison, who was out with a concussion. She was replaced in the starting lineup by sophomore Kristen Walker, who finished with a game-high 20 points on serve, including 14 in a row in game three and four aces.

“Kristen did a wonderful job with her serve,” Campbell said. “Central kind of lost it there in game three and made a lot of mistakes, but she was putting it in spots that was forcing them to make plays and they weren’t able to make them.”

Walker took serve in game three with Cabot leading 7-2, and didn’t stop until she finally served one into the net to make it 21-3.

A brief rally by Central made it more respectable, but Katelyn Joyner sealed the win for Cabot with a service ace, the team’s eighth of the game.

Seniors Lakin Best and Taylor Bitely each had nine kills to lead the Lady Panthers (7-6-1, 3-3).

Best added four assists and three blocks to her totals. Senior Bailee Uhiren finished with eight service points and assists. Senior Kaitlyn Pitman finished with 11 points on serve and six kills.

Central’s 6-foot-2 hitter Kiara Williams led all players with 14 kills and five blocks, but suffered several miss-hits and landed four of her five serves long or in the net.

“If they were a little more consistent they would be very dangerous,” Campbell said of Central. “They are so athletic, if they were to put it all together they could knock off some really good teams.”

Lady Tiger Cassidy Rouse revealed a serve that Cabot could not handle in game one. She took serve with Central trailing 14-11, and served six-straight points, half of which were aces, the other half kills by Williams. That put the Lady Tigers in front 17-14. She finally bailed the Lady Panthers out by serving long on her seventh attempt after a Cabot timeout.

“I had to call timeout there because she was killing us,” Campbell said. “That was impressive. She has a big-time college-level serve and we just weren’t expecting anything like that.”

Pitman then served three-straight points to put Cabot back in front before Central broke to tie the game at 18. That was the last point Central would score in the game. Cabot broke and Walker served six-straight points, with Bitely contributing two kills to give Cabot the win.

Game two went point for point to 13. That’s when the Lady Tigers began the unraveling that culminated in the game-three meltdown. Pitman took serve for the Lady Panthers and scored three-straight points because Central couldn’t stay out of the net. She added three more on two aces and a Bitely kill to make it 19-13.

Rouse took serve again for Central with Cabot leading 22-14 and hit a scorcher to the left-sideline in the middle of the Cabot defense. Best got in position, and not only dug it out, but made a perfect pass to Joyner, who set Bitely for a kill that broke Rouse’s serve.
“That was huge,” Campbell said. “I think that was the turning point.”

The Lady Panthers take part in the Arkansas State University Playday Tournament at Jonesboro today, then its back to conference play with road games at Searcy and Marion on Tuesday and Thursday.