Saturday, August 30, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot girls lose leads late, fall to Batesville

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panther volleyball team lost its home opener in straight sets Thursday, falling to Batesville 25-17, 25-22 and 25-23. The Lady Panthers led in all three sets but couldn’t hold on in any of them.

“I think it’s mostly still a matter of experience,” said Cabot coach Kham Chanthaphasouk. “Even though we have three seniors, overall that’s not much. Almost no one else on the team has any varsity experience. They’re going to keep getting better because there is a lot of talent and potential on this team.”

Cabot’s lead in game one was brief. After Cabot broke serve on the first point, Tori Barnhill hit back-to-back aces and added another point on serve to give the Lady Panthers a 4-0 lead. The early aces were not signs of things to come. Cabot struggled at the service line the rest of the game. Chanthaphasouk called timeout after the team’s fifth missed serve put his team at a 13-9 deficit, but from there, Batesville continued to pull away.

The last two games were played very closely, with Cabot leading most of the way in each one. A key difference in the final two games was how teams handled runs and answered after timeouts. Cabot forced Batesville to use all its timeouts the last two games, and they came out of each one and broke serve. Cabot also had to utilize a couple of timeouts late in each game as Batesville charged back, but were not able to stem the Pioneer tide.

In the middle of game two, Cabot senior Haley Callison put down two huge kills and sophomore Maddie Brown served up an ace that clipped the net and dropped just on Batesville’s side to put the Lady Panthers up 17-13 and force a timeout.

Batesville broke serve after the break and pulled to within 17-16. Cabot stretched it back out to a 20-17 lead, forcing another timeout.

Batesville came out of that break and scored seven-straight points despite a Cabot timeout in the middle of the run.

“That’s the experience I’m talking about,” Chanthaphasouk said. “We just weren’t able to regroup. Once they got going it was like we didn’t really know what to do. We were totally out of sync.”

Out of the timeout at 23-20, Cabot let a serve land in the middle of the defense for an ace and a 24-20 deficit. The home team finally broke serve and added another point, but then gave up a back-row kill that also landed in the center of the defense.

Cabot was in control of game three for even longer than in game two. It maintained about a three-point lead throughout the contest until Batesville came back to tie it at 16. Out of a timeout, Brown got a tough dig and with it made a nice pass, and then got the kill after the set to pull within 19-17. She then served up an ace, and on her second serve, got a back line kill to put the Lady Panthers back up by three.

“That was a brief moment of the potential I think she has,” Chanthaphasouk said of his 6-foot-1 sophomore. “She played year-round last year and she’s a different player. She was nowhere near the level last year to where she is now.”

Batesville came back to tie it at 20 before Cabot scored two in a row to go up 22-20. Cabot’s last lead was at 23-22 before the Lady Pioneers closed with three-straight points for the win.

While the head Panther felt like his team could have and should have played better, he didn’t want to take credit away from the smaller but very athletic Pioneers.

“Those girls could really get up in the air and they were able to handle the runs better than us,” Chanthaphasouk said. “I think that comes from their experience. They were in the 5A championship game last year and I think they have two year-round programs in Batesville. Those girls play all the time. That’s what we have to get everyone involved in around here.”

Brown led the Lady Panthers with nine kills while junior Kristen Walker had six kills and four solo blocks.

Junior libero Abbie Lippincott had 14 digs. The Lady Panthers host Little Rock Central on Thursday to open conference play.