SPORTS >>Panthers fall to defending champion Russellville
Leader sports writer
When the Lady Panthers had momentum, they were brilliant. Without it, they were ineffective against defending state champions Russellville Thursday night at the Panther gymnasium. The Lady Cyclones took the match 3-1, with a strong third set from Cabot interrupting an otherwise dominating performance for Russellville.
Russellville took the first two sets 25-19 and 25-14 respectively, but the Lady Panthers stepped up in the third set, holding a narrow lead most of the distance to claim a 26-24 win after the Lady Cyclones threatened to steal the frame with a late rally.
Despite a strong showing in the third set, Cabot looked downright out of gas in the fourth and final set. Russellville used its slight depth advantage to easily seal the match with a 25-16 win in the final set.
The first half of the opening set was closely contested until the final moments, when Russellville quickly turned a narrow 19-17 advantage into a more comfortable 22-17 lead. The Lady Cyclones held Cabot to just two more points in the set to lead the match 1-0.
The second set was all Russellville. After rushing out to a 7-2 lead, the Cyclones kept Cabot on the defensive, allowing just four total team kills from the Lady Panthers in the frame. The kills were more decisive on Russellville’s side of the net with 10. Blocks from Morgan Young and Ashton Seidl were the only opposition from the Lady Panthers in the set.
The Lady Panthers undoubtedly played their best volleyball in the third set. Three early kills from junior Katie Mantione gave Cabot the early momentum, rushing them out to a 4-2 lead. The interval remained close throughout the frame, but the Lady Panthers kept the momentum in their favor.
After dominating most of the set, Cabot was strongly challenged by the Lady Cyclones in the late going. Russellville racked up five straight points to turn a 20-16 deficit into a 21-20 lead, but Cabot got help in closing the deal from an unlikely source.
With normal studs Kim Carter and Kelli Lowry a bit off the mark in the set, sophomore Tori Hendrix stepped up and rolled off two straight kills to edge out Russ-ellville for the 26-24 win. Hendrix had put on a clinic earlier in the evening during the JV contest, and carried that momentum into the varsity match when the Lady Panthers needed it the most.
After the opening moments of the fourth set, it became apparent that the frame was merely a formality for the Lady Cyclones, as the winded Lady Panthers struggled to recapture the glory of the previous set.
Once Russellville’s lead reached double digits in the frame, they coasted to the win to claim the conference-opening match for the 7A-Central division.
Mantione led Cabot with eight kills. Lowry finished with six kills and two aces. Hendrix had five kills, all of which came in the final two sets. Carter had three blocks in the match.
For Russellville, junior Megan Simpson led the team with eight kills and 11 blocks. Senior Candace Scott and junior Cody Brook-houser each finished with seven kills on the evening. The loss dropped Cabot’s record to 4-2 on the season.
Cabot’s next match will be at Conway next Tuesday in varsity/JV action.