Tuesday, October 27, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot falls in controversy

Leader sports editor

CONWAY – The Lady Panther volleyball team overcame a series of bad calls to force a game five, and rallied from a sizeable deficit to take the tiebreaker game to extra points.

In the end, though, Rogers Heritage got back-to-back kills by Elleson Dunigan for game, set and match and advance to the second round of the Class 7A state tournament.

Scores for Heritage High were 25-20, 23-25, 25-13, 23-25 and 16-14.

Cabot (12-12) was called for double-hits 12 times on sets, and four line calls were highly questionable. After game three, Cabot coach Kham Chanthaphasouk tried to get the up-referee’s attention but was ignored. So he appealed to Nick Lasker, who was in the stands. Lasker is the associate executive director of the Arkansas High School Activities Association, and rules interpreter and head of officials for volleyball.

“I tried to talk to them and they wouldn’t even talk to me,” said Chanthaphasouk. “So I went and asked Nick if there’s a procedure to get an official removed. He went and talked to them but I don’t know what was said. I just know that it was not called evenly. All the double hits just weren’t right. Just because it spins doesn’t mean it’s two hits. It just was so one-sided and it was affecting my players.”

Game one was the only game in which the team that scored first didn’t win. Cabot’s Kristen Walker got a kill on Rogers Heritage’s first serve, but the Lady War Eagles broke back. The third point of the match was the first double-hit call, and gave RHHS a lead it would not relinquish.

Lady Panther Abbie Lippincott served two aces to start game two. Rogers Heritage (16-10-1) tied it at 4-4, but Tori Barnhill served three-straight points for a 9-5 Cabot lead. The lead stayed between three and five up to 23-19. After an unforced error by Cabot, an RHHS hit that was clearly out right in front of Cabot’s bench was called in, making the score 23-21 and drawing Chanthaphasouk’s first major protest.

He called timeout and assistant coach Anna Robertson run the huddle. He tried to talk to the official, who would not engage him.

Right after the timeout, Cabot was called for another double hit to make the score 23-22, but finally caught a break. A miss-timed swing by Walker floated over the net and landed untouched amid the War Eagle defense. An unforced error by Cabot made it a one-point game, but a big swing by Dunigan went long to end the game and tie the match.

Heritage’s Erika Reaser served six-straight points to start game three.

Cabot started well. Walker blocked two big hits on the first point, but Heritage kept the ball in play and Cabot was eventually called for another double-hit. The sixth point was another double-hit against Cabot before Reaser finally served short of the net.

Chanthaphasouk got a call to go his way as Cabot pulled to within 8-10. A long point was allowed to continue after an apparent four-hit possession. After Heritage won the point, the officials discussed the incident and reversed the call, awarding the Lady Panthers the point.

But Cabot disintegrated after 13-11. Heritage junior Jocelyn Galvan, who only entered the match to serve, served all the way 22-11. Twice Cabot made excellent saves with the second hit, only to have the easy free ball go out of bounds. An ace fell between to Lady Panthers, either of which could have easily received the serve, and Dunigan and Hope Von Gremp combined for four kills during the run.

The Lady Panthers answered their coach’s intensity in game four, jumping out to a 4-0 lead on Lippincott’s serve. The lead grew to as much as 18-10 before Heritage put together a furious rally to tie the game at 23-23. Taylor Bell then got a huge kill from the right side for Cabot to send Tori Barnhill to the service line. Bell then ended the match with an almost identical kill, forcing a fifth game.

Heritage had the match in hand with a 13-9 lead, but Walker got a tip and a kill inside the Heritage attack line to make it 13-11. Heritage called timeout, and Von Gremp got her ninth kill for a 14-11 lead. Heritage was then called for a double-hit.

On the next point, Barnhill and Faith Garvin blocked Dunigan twice and Maddie Brown got the kill for Cabot. Brown got another kill to tie it at 14-14, but Dunigan’s 24th and 25th kills ended the match and Cabot’s season.

“The girls never stopped fighting,” Chanthaphasouk said of his team. “They had a lot of going against them and a lot of chances to quit, but they never did. I’m very proud of them for that.”

Dunigan’s 25 kills led all players. Brown led Cabot with nine kills. Barnhill had eight and Walker had seven kills and six blocks.