SPORTS >>Cabot ladies ousted from state by Har-Ber
The Har-Ber Lady Wildcats proved to be the most impressive five-seed ever witnessed Tuesday afternoon during the first round of the 7A state volleyball tournament at the Cabot High School gymnasium. Har-Ber downed the host Lady Panthers in straight games, 25-14, 31-29 and 25-23 to advance to today’s quarterfinals against No. 1 seed Fort Smith Southside.
The Lady Panthers had more experience on the court, but the overall size advantage of the younger Har-Ber team would be enough to make up for the lesser experience on its side of the court. Cabot actually carried the momentum for most of the second game, but the Lady Wildcats captured the final two points of the game with a kill by sophomore outside hitter Holly Huffman and a net error by the Lady Panthers to close out the long frame.
The third game would also be led by the Lady Panthers most of the way. Cabot looked to be in good shape to avoid the shutout in game three, building up a comfortable 17-12 lead. Har-Ber had some struggles catching back up, but would finally catch the Lady Panthers to tie the score at 23 before closing the match with a block by Martha Swearington to reach 25.
The Lady Panthers rushed out to an early lead in game one, but it would not last past the fifth point. Kailey Bain served out to start the match for Har-Ber, giving the Lady Panthers the lead. An ace for senior defender Ashton Seidl put Cabot up by two, and Katie Mantione followed that with the first kill of the match for a 3-0 lead for the Lady Panthers early.
For a squad that features eight sophomores, two seniors and only one junior, the Lady Wildcats possessed a staggering amount of talent and discipline. The Lady Panthers, who played solidly themselves with the exception of a few miscues at the net, could only make adjustments throughout the match to try and compensate for the size disadvantage.
Cabot ended up with looks that it had not tried throughout much of the regular season, including the move of senior hitter Morgan Young into the libero position for much of game two, and the biggest surprise was the leading scorer for the Lady Panthers in the final game.
Senior Janell Reando made her mark over the last three years as the Lady Panthers’ assist leader, but she would walk out of the CHS gym after her final match as the top scorer for Cabot in the last half of the match. Reando, the second smallest of the Cabot starters at 5’8”, seemed to be the only Lady Panther who could get under the ruthless blocking of the Har-Ber front line. Young and fellow senior Katie Mantione had productive outings at the net, but the Lady Wildcat blocking duo of Crystal Bain and Swearington sent away numerous kill attempts by Cabot.
Har-Ber went on the offensive for the rest of game one after capturing the lead at 6-5, shutting down Cabot scoring opportunities at the net. Kirsti Hesseltine scored a tip, a kill and a block within a matter of six points to start the swing of momentum heavily in the Lady Wildcats’ favor.
The intensity in game two proved to make the lack of excitement in the first game a non-issue. The lead would change hands six times, causing the score to go far beyond the standard 25 points to claim a win. Instead, an out on Har-Ber tied the score at 24 all instead of handing the win to the Lady Wildcats, and Cabot would take the lead with a kill by Sarah Fuller that was assisted by Bianca Reando. Mantione would play a part in the point as well, faking a set up for a kill on the left side while Reando prepared to set. The Har-Ber defense adjusted in anticipation of a big strike from Mantione, but instead found themselves completely out of position when Reando’s short pass to Fuller was immediately drilled into the floor over the middle of the net. This would give the Lady Panthers a 25-24 lead, but a kill by Swearington tied the game yet again.
Har-Ber ended up with the lead again, but a block by Seidl tied it at 29 all. Huffman got perhaps the most vital point of the game on a kill that went out, but was tipped by Cabot to give the Lady Wildcats game point.
Mantione led the Panthers with eight kills, three blocks and one tip. Young added five kills, one block and three aces, and Janell Reando finished with six kills and two tips. For Har-Ber, Swearington led with seven kills, two tips, two blocks and two aces. Courtney Bell added six kills and an ace, while Hesseltine finished with four blocks, three kills and a tip.
The Lady Wildcats advance to today’s semifinal round at CHS, with a noon match with Fort Smith Southside, the No. 1 seed out of the 7A-West. The Lady Panthers finished out the season with a record of 14-10.