Leader Blues

Saturday, October 24, 2009

SPORTS >> Lady Panthers earn new life in postseason

Cabot senior Katie Burchfield goes up for a block against a Van Buren hitter.

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Senior night started with a scare for the Cabot Lady Panthers in their 3-1 victory over Van Buren at Panther Pavilion on Tuesday.

Visiting Van Buren’s attempt to play spoiler started out well. The Pointerettes claimed the first game 25-18 and rallied in Game 2 before falling 25-21.

But Cabot established dominance in the third game and held off another tenacious Van Buren charge in the fourth and final game in its 7A-Central Conference finale.

The victory earned Cabot (12-12, 6-8) the No. 6 seed in the 7A State tournament this week at Van Buren High School. The Lady Panthers will face 7A-West No. 3 seed Bentonville on Tuesday at 2 p.m.

Seniors Brittany Basye, Faith Blair, Katie Burchfield, Angelica Chamberlain, Sarah Martin and team manager Jaquilynn Williford were honored after the match by parents and faculty for their contributions to the team over the past three seasons.

The Lady Panthers’ only hope of earning a state tournament seed was a victory Tuesday. A Bryant loss to North Little Rock tied the Lady Hornets and Lady Panthers for the sixth seed, with Cabot holding the head-to-head tiebreaker.

“I think they knew what was at stake,” Lady Panthers coach Terry Williams said. “They were a little wound up for that first game. They started to relax a little more after that. We didn’t make as many mistakes. A lot of times, we hurt ourselves because we make so many errors. We cut out a lot of our errors, and that made a difference.”

Burchfield came on strong in the closing points of Game 3 — after Basye and junior Ashley Daniels had dominated the net for most of the game — and closed out her final home match as a Lady Panther with seven kills in the final game, including match point to hand Cabot a 25-23 victory.

The Lady Panthers also picked up defensively down the stretch. They found a way to seal off Van Buren’s deceptive left-side hitting, which led the Pointerettes to a quick 19-13 lead in Game 1, the only game they won.

“We were going for the blocks,” Williams said. “Our back row started picking up and started moving a little bit better, but we try to go for that block on the front line.”

Cabot rushed out to a 10-2 lead in Game 3 and did not allow Van Buren to catch up. That was not the case in the final game, as the Lady Pointerettes closed the gap from 10-2 to pull within 22-21.

A tip by Daniels gave Cabot match point, but a side out helped Van Buren pull within 24-23 before Burchfield’s last kill clinched it for the Lady Panthers.

Opportunities on offense did not come as often early on for Cabot. Van Buren, who will be the Central’s No. 4 seed, kept the Lady Panthers off their game with solid defensive play in Game 1. The Pointerettes also used effective cross-court blasts to gain the early advantage.

“We knew they would keep coming back and keep coming back,” Williams said. “We were just trying to mix things up on offense because we knew Van Buren was good on defense. They are always scrappy.”

Burchfield led Cabot offensively with 15 kills, while Bayse had 11. Daniels also had 11 kills and led the Lady Panthers in blocks with nine.