Tuesday, October 13, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot girls second at Conway

Leader sports editor

The Lady Panthers played some of their best volleyball of the season Saturday at the Lady Cat Invitational at Conway High School. Cabot won its pool and advanced to the Gold bracket for the eight pool winners. In bracket play, the Lady Panthers advanced all the way to the tournament championship game where they fell 25-16 twice to defending Class 6A champion Russellville 2-0.

“We played really well,” said Cabot coach Kham Chanthaphasouk. “There was a lot of good passing, good digs, good ball control, aggressive hits, smart placement of the ball. It was a good day.”

The 24-team field was broken up into eight, three-team pools consisting of some of the top teams from 4A through 7A. Each match was best two out of three games. Cabot, playing in Pool E with Jonesboro Westside and Sheridan, beat Westside at 9 a.m. 25-19 twice, then beat Sheridan 25-14, 25-19 to advance to the Gold bracket.

Cabot’s first match of bracket play pitted it against conference foe Mountain Home. The Lady Bombers have beaten Cabot twice this year in league play by scores of 3-0 and 3-1. But Cabot opened bracket play on Saturday with an easy 25-15 win before dropping game two 25-16. Tiebreaker sets but it took Cabot a little longer. Needing to win by two, Cabot won game three 16-14 to advance.

The Lady Panthers faced Nettleton in the semifinals. The Lady Raiders blew out Morrilton and beat Shiloh Christian 25-20, 25-22 in Pool C. In the quarterfinals, they knocked off tournament host Conway 24-26, 25-14 and 15-11.

But Cabot put together another strong start to win game one 25-16 over the Lady Raiders.

Nettleton bounced back to win game two 25-17, but Cabot won the tiebreaker set 15-11 to move into the championship game against Russellville.

The Lady Cyclones smashed Beebe and Jonesboro in Pool H. They beat Bryant 26-24 twice in the first round of bracket play and played a possible precursor to this year’s 6A championship against Marion in the semifinals, winning that match 25-18, 15-25 and 15-12.

Cabot (13-12, 6-7) was mired in a four-game losing streak, its worst of the season, entering the tournament.

Chanthaphasouk hopes going 5-1 and beating a series of quality of opponents will be a big confidence boost as the team finishes league play and prepares for the Class 7A state tournament.

“As I’ve said all along, this team has the talent to be among the top teams,” Chanthaphasouk said. “We just weren’t playing like it. Now that we’ve beaten some of those teams, hopefully we’ll continue to play at that level.

“I’m really proud of them. I knew they had the talent, so I’m very proud that they finally showed it on the court.”

Cabot closes league play Thursday at West Memphis. It will close out the final week of the regular season with a pair of home nonconference games Tuesday and Thursday of next week against Batesville and Mount St. Mary.

The Beebe volleyball team struggled in its matches Saturday. The Lady Badgers played without three-year starting setter Sarah Clark, but coach Ashley Camp didn’t think that was a good enough reason for the 1-3 performance, saying only, “It was a very disappointing weekend to say the least.”

Beebe lost in straight sets to Russellville and Jonesboro, though game one against Jonesboro went to 28-26.

The Lady Badgers beat Lake Hamilton 25-13 and 25-20 in the quarterfinals of the bronze bracket, then lost 25-22 twice to Brookland.

The Lady Badgers (18-7, 10-0) play at Sylvan Hills on Thursday and hopes to complete an undefeated and outright conference championship at home against North Pulaski next Tuesday.