Panthers fend off Cats comeback

The Starr’s Mill Lady Panther traveled to Whitewater Tuesday evening to face the Lady Wildcats on the volleyball court. The cross-county match, now a non-region showdown, seemed a slam dunk for the Lady Panthers after the first set, as they won it easily, 25-14.  Little did they realize that the Lady Cats had other plans for the outcome of the long standing grudge match, besting the Panthers in set two 25-23 and forcing a tie-breaker set.

Set three of the match seemed to be heading in favor of the home squad as the Wildcats led at one point 13-4. Some teams seem to play their finest under pressure, even if it is self-imposed. The Lady Panthers exemplified that mindset, and seemed to say “Enough! Let’s get down to business and finish this!” And so they did, coming from behind to tie the game at 16 all. The Lady Cats would manage to score only three additional points during the game winning set falling to the Panthers 25-19.

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Neither team had time to rest post-match, as Newnan and Landmark Christian Academy were waiting in the wings, ready for an opportunity to notch a win. Starr’s Mill ended their evening adding two wins and a loss to their season record of  6-1.  The Lady Panthers beat the Lady War Eagles (25-23, 23-25, 25-19),  before falling to Newnan (18-25, 21-25). The Lady Cats lost to both Newnan (21-25, 25-18, 18-25) and Landmark (16-25, 22-25).

Starr’s Mill coach Walt Ellison noted that consistent play is his team’s major focus and goal this early in the season, but he is excited about their prospects. “We have six seniors leading the team this year. We  play well at times, however, we have to maintain energy, communication, and passing.”

He noted that McIntosh and Northgate, both region rivals continue to be possible  roadblocks on the Lady Panthers path to a state title.

A host of Lady Panthers contributed to the evening’s win versus the Wildcats. Senior Panthers led the way offensively and defensively, starting with Danielle Ajayi with 6 kills and 4 blocks, followed by Kadi Dial with 6 kills, Jessi Schriver with 4 kills, 2 blocks and 1 ace, captain Olivia Krug with 4 kills and 1 ace, and co-captain Rachel Moore with 2 kills, 2 aces. Juniors Alli Jones sported 4 kills and 1 service ace along with Dana Whitis with 1 kill and 2 aces.

Senior captains Rachel Moore and Olivia Krug commented after the evening play their excitement about this season.

“We’ve started off our season really strong, which is nice. We know each others’ strengths, but we need to develop more as a unit, “ noted Krug.

Moore added, “Our lineups are still changing, but we are figuring out who clicks with whom on the court. Although McIntosh is still our top rival, we do have a bit of a vendetta against Sequoyah, since they knocked us out of the playoffs last year, but we are working hard to be ready for them if necessary.”

The Lady Panthers next travel to Brookwood for the Aloha Bash. Whitewater travels to North Cobb for the Warrior Classic.

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