Coming off a loss to the rival Paris Wildcats earlier in the week, the North Lamar Pantherettes were looking to rebound and make a statement on Friday when they took to the volleyball court against the Pittsburg Lady Pirates. And that’s exactly what they did, winning in straight sets, 25-10, 25-21, 26-24.
In the first set, it didn’t take long for the Pantherettes to seize control. With strong play at the net courtesy of Logan Dority, Lauren Dority and Roselyn Spencer, the team was able to not only find quick kills of their own, but prevent the Lady Pirates from finding many kills of their own.
A Logan Dority ace gave North Lamar the very early 3-0 lead in the opening set, and though Pittsburg responded with three straight points of their own to tie the game up, North Lamar one-upped them by responding with six unanswered points, with multiple early kills from outside hitter Hannah Titlow and Lauren Dority.
And when the team wasn’t finding early kills at the net, the team was able to outlast their opponent in long rallies thanks to some stellar defensive plays by players like Kate Rainey, Erica King and Emma Layton.
“I definitely think we attacked really well in the first set,” Titlow said. “I was really pleased with how everybody wanted to swing on the ball, and our defense was on point too.”
A thunderous cross court kill by Spencer made the score 11-6, part of a run of nine unanswered points after Pittsburg interrupted their earlier run of six straight points.
“We came out with a lot of energy, and you could really see it in how they played,” North Lamar coach Sara Beth Upchurch said.
For much of the second set, it looked to be going the same way as the first, with North Lamar firmly in control.
A pair of diving digs by Layton in quick succession ultimately led to a Spencer kill that put the Pantherettes up 16-10, and Titlow stretched the lead to 19-10 a few minutes later with an ace.
“Since I play libero, and I’m only really on the court to play defense, I really try to go all out with it,” Layton said. “I just want to be the best at what I do, and that’s my mentality.”
Towards the end of the second set, the Lady Pirates began making a push, finding some well-placed kills and keeping rallies alive with some truly impressive hustle plays.
After trailing 19-10, they outscored North Lamar 11-6 the rest of the way, though their comeback effort in the set fell short.
In the third set, the Lady Pirates carried that momentum forward, and the two teams were locked in a battle from the start.
It was Pittsburg who built up a somewhat sizable lead, leading by as many as five points early and maintaining a cushion of three to five points for much of the set.
North Lamar wasn’t perfect, as some of Pittsburg’s points could be chalked up to some errant passes and mispositioning. However, Upchurch said, most of the turnaround was on Pittsburg’s end.
“I definitely want to give credit to Pittsburg more than dog my own players, because I don’t think we were playing too poorly; that was just one of the best I’ve ever seen Pitt play,” the coach said.
“I think they surprised us,” Titlow said. “They were doing a really good job getting to balls and they were really picking up everything. There in that third set, we knew that what we were doing wasn’t working, and we needed to change things. We made the adjustments and ended up coming out on top.”
After finding themselves down 13-8, the Pantherettes cut it to 13-12 on a long, dramatic rally that ultimately ended with King setting Lauren Dority for a big kill.
The Pantherettes didn’t take their first lead in the fifth set until a Layton ace put them up 24-23, and a few points later they sealed the deal when a Pittsburg attack sailed long.
“I think we’ve rebounded from that Paris loss,” Layton said. “We took care of things pretty quick tonight and we’re still really confident.”
Statistics weren’t available by press time.