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After a slightly jittery start, the volleyball Lady Panthers settled down and swept the visiting Gallatin County Lady Wildcats, 3-0, in their season opener, Aug. 9.
Carroll squeaked out a tight 25-22 win in game one and commanded the serve in game two, winning 25-11. Sophomore Kelly Layton scored five points off the serve, while sophomore Stevie Ogburn added three more. Senior Ashley Gentry scored two points late for Carroll, including an ace.
In game three, both teams hunkered down for a battle.
The Lady Panthers built an early 7-4 advantage, but the Lady Wildcats bounced back to tie the game, 9-9, off three straight points, forcing a Carroll timeout.
Neither team could control the serve long enough to make a big run, as the game stayed tight down the stretch.
The home crowd, especially the student section, was buzzing. Carroll looked out of control at times, as body parts were flying across the floor, but they managed to keep the ball in play.
Tied at 24-all, the students roared as Carrollsenior Megan Harris toed the line. One of the team’s most consistent servers, she calmly put the ball in play. The two teams volleyed multiple times before the ball fell in Gallatin territory.
Gallatin shanked Harris’ next serve, sealing the win for the Lady Panthers.
When asked how she felt about Harris serving with the game on the line, head coach Kristen Hooper said, “Confident. I’m confident in Megan as a server. In our scrimmage, she served almost 100 percent. … Having Megan back at the line to serve, I had no worries at all. She’s a tough server, she hits her spots.”
Due to a technology error, stats for game one and two were unavailable. In game three, senior Ariel Hotfil, junior Michaela Culver and sophomore Karly Prosser all logged three kills, while Ogburn had two kills. Layton served three aces.
“They did a great job,” Hooper said of her team. “I’m really proud of the way they played. They never gave up, especially in that third game. They were down a couple points at the end and came back.
“Some unconventional plays there at the end, but they managed to (stay with the ball) and communicate, which has been a focus this year. We’ve been working on it and it’s not easy. They’ve got to trust each other, … they’ve got to know not only the game, but know each other and it can really be a challenge.”
Because of KHSAA rule changes, volleyball teams have the option to play to the best of five games, rather than three, in preparation for the full conversion next season. If a fifth game is necessary, teams play to 15 rather than 25.
Hooper said all district and conference games would be played best of five. For other games, the decision will be made beforehand. “My vote will always be best of five,” she said, “because it’s more playing experience for my girls.”