Lady Panthers unable to win home volleyball tournament

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By Kristin Beck

Despite winning their first match over Iroquois, the Lady Panthers lost two straight to Ludlow and Williamstown to eliminate themselves from their home tournament, the Carroll County River Classic, Saturday.

Everything was clicking early for the Lady Panthers, who posted a 25-19 victory in game one over Iroquois. “They just came out guns blazing; they did an awesome job,” head coach Kristen Hooper said.

However, things slowed down in game two, and the girls began giving points away to the Lady Raiders. Hooper said her team “got too comfortable,” but were able to hang on for a 25-23 win and advance.

The Lady Panthers hit a low point for the day during their match with the Lady Panthers of Ludlow. In game one, shanked passes hurt Carroll’s bid to get back into it, falling 25-17. Hooper said her team struggled handling the visitors’ jump floaters that came across the net.

They stayed close in the beginning of game two, tied 9-9, but fell behind because of poor serve/receive and being on the wrong end of long rallies.

“As a team, we should never be beat by a free ball; we should never be getting beat by a tip,” Hooper said. “If we are doing the little things right and staying in our base and moving like we should be, we should never get beat by something like that, but we were. I’m not sure if it was frustration with the team as a whole, or just it was a long day ... or what exactly it was, but we were getting beat by little things that we should never ever get beat by. And that’s frustrating as a coach; that’s frustrating as a player.”

The Lady Panthers looked for redemption against a familiar opponent in game three: the Williamstown Lady Demons. The two teams had already met during the regular season twice and had won at their respective home gyms, 2-1.

Carroll started strong with a kill by senior Olivia Welch, but just as quickly, fell behind 5-10, forcing Hooper to take a timeout. The Lady Panthers regrouped, tying the game 12-12. However, the Lady Demons gained a 2-3 point advantage and maintained it until late in the game, ultimately pulling away for a 25-19 victory.

In the second game, the two teams stayed close throughout, with the largest lead being a 17-13 Carroll advantage following a Williamstown spike that sailed out of bounds. However, the Lady Demons stayed close and tied the game on an ace, 20-20. Unfortunately for the home team, they were not able to close out the game, losing 25-23.

Junior Ariel Hotfil recorded a block and a kill in the match, while junior Erin Spradlin and senior Alyssa Hartman both registered a kill. Sophomore Kristen Amick also had a block against Williamstown.

Hooper said her team served a little more consistently and “played more like a team” in game two, but the slow start made it too little too late.

Seeing the long faces and the tears shed by some of the Carroll County players after the game, you could tell that winning the tournament would have meant a lot to them.

“Our goal was All-A, and All-A didn’t turn out very well. So we regrouped and now our goal was to win our home tournament, and we couldn’t win our home tournament,” Hooper said. “I think it was just disappointment with the way the season has gone this year for our four seniors.”

Senior Leah Chandler was back on the court for Carroll County following an injury but was still not 100 percent, and fellow senior Celess Parson watched the game from the bleachers due to illness.

Hooper said Spradlin stepped up in the Iroquois game, notching multiple kills and hitting her spots well. Junior Megan Harris also passed the ball very well in the Lady Panthers’ victory.

Against Ludlow and Williamstown, Welch’s aggressiveness at the net stood out to Hooper. “We’ve been working on, in practice, helping out our setters and taking care of a second ball if it’s right there, and she’s done a really good job of taking care of that – turning and spiking or turning and tipping or even setting it up if she has to. She’s really done a nice job with that,” she said.

Hooper also praised Hotfil for her consistent play throughout the tournament and blocks at the net.