Saturday, October 04, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> NLR girls win close one over Panthers

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot volleyball team came oh so close to pulling off a huge upset over North Little Rock in Thursday’s 7A/6A-East Conference match at Panther Arena. The Lady Panthers gave the first place Lady Charging Wildcats all they could handle, but the host team fell short in the end, losing the match 3-2.

Cabot lost the conference match by scores of 27-25, 15-25, 25-22, 18-25 and 15-17. In the first meeting of the season between the two teams last month at NLR, the Lady Panthers were swept three games to none, but Thursday’s performance shows Cabot coach Kham Chanthaphasouk that his young team is improving.

“We went to five (games),” said Chanthaphasouk. “The first time we went there (NLRHS) they beat us in three, easily. Their technique is better. They’ve worked really hard on teamwork and they’re playing together better.

“We’re still young, and North Little Rock has some very, very good athletes. So for us to be able to compete at that level, I’m really proud of them.”

Cabot and North Little Rock went back and forth in the first game. The Lady Cats led 18-15 late, but Cabot answered with three-straight points to tie it up. However, North Little Rock regained the lead and led 24-22 when Faith Garvin got a kill from the corner of the net to bring the Lady Panthers within one.

Junior libero Abbie Lippincott served the next point, which was earned on a block by sophomore teammate Maddie Brown that tied it up at 24-24. The next serve landed out of bounds to give North Little Rock a one-point lead, but Brown got her ninth block of the game on the next volley to tie it back up at 25-25.

Tori Barnhill followed Brown’s crucial block with an ace, and sophomore setter Regan Campbell ended the first game in Cabot’s favor with a kill at the middle of the net. The second game didn’t go as well for the Lady Panthers.

The two teams, like game one, went back and forth early in game two, but with libero Deanna Huckaby at the serving line, North Little Rock quickly began to separate itself on the scoreboard and eventually built a commanding 20-10 lead.

Cabot answered with five of the next nine points scored, but the match ended on a Lady Panther serve that fell out of bounds, setting the final score of game two. Cabot rebounded with an excellent start to game three.

With Lippincott serving, the Lady Panthers jumped out to a 4-0 lead with the last serve being an ace. North Little Rock didn’t stay down long, though, and battled back to tie the score at 8-8.

The two teams tied again at 13-13, but Cabot was able to regain the lead and pushed it to 19-15.

The Lady Cats fought their way back in it and got to within 23-22 of the Cabot lead, but the Lady Panthers took over serving rights after earning their 24th point, and Taylor Bell served the game-ending point to put Cabot ahead in the match two games to one.

In the fourth game, Cabot got off to another slow start, and as a result, trailed 4-1. The Lady Panthers battled back to take the lead, though. With Bell serving four-straight points, Cabot led 11-7 at one point, forcing a North Little Rock timeout.

North Little Rock later tied the score at 14-14, and with Naporsha Gilliam serving, the Lady Cats scored nine-straight points to lead by a comfortable 23-14 margin. Cabot finally broke serve on a corner kill by Barnhill, but the deficit was too much to overcome as North Little Rock soon ended the fourth game on a kill by Jada Curtis.

The Lady Cats got off to another good start in the decisive fifth game, leading 4-1, but Cabot battled back and took its first lead of the fifth game at 8-7. Like the whole match itself, it was back and forth the rest of the way.

Cabot got game point on a corner kill by Bell that put the Lady Panthers up 15-14, but North Little Rock’s Seven Powers tied it up on the next volley with a tip over the Lady Panther defenders at the middle of the net, which resulted in the game-tying point.

Powers then took to the serving line and served the next two points, the last of which was an ace, to give the visiting Lady Cats the hard-fought match win.

North Little Rock and Marion currently sit atop the 7A/6A-East standings with just one loss each in league play. The Lady Cats’ lone conference loss was against Marion a month ago, but they avenged that loss by beating the Class 6A Lady Patriots on Tuesday.

Cabot now has a 6-5 overall record this season, but is currently the No. 2 seed out of the conference for Class 7A.

Powers led all players with a match-high 14 kills. Brown led Cabot with 13 kills and had a match-high 18 blocks. Kristen Walker had 11 kills for Cabot. Garvin had six kills and teammates Bell and Barnhill had five kills each.

Campbell had a match-high 16 assists, while junior teammate Haden Majors had 14 assists. Lippincott led all players with nine digs.

Cabot will resume conference play Tuesday at Marion, and that match is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.