PDT Sports Writer
JACKSON —Sometimes giving your best isn’t enough.
That’s what Clay found out Thursday as the No. 3 Panthers (17-8) were defeated for the third time this season by conference foe Eastern. This time, the second-seeeded Eagles (21-1) eliminated Clay Thursday in straight sets in the second of two Division IV Southeast District Semifinals at Jackson High School.
Eastern advances to Saturday’s final against top-seeded South Webster (20-4), which defeated no. 4 South Gallia (19-6) in a sweep.
“Our main thing was the first (set),” Clay coach Jill Tipton said. “I’m really proud of how we played in the first (set).”
The Panthers stood toe-to-toe with the Eagles in the first as the score was tied 9-9. But Eastern, which went 14-0 in SOC I play this season, stepped up and took the frame 25-16.
“I think that is so typical of teenage girls is to start cold when you get into tournaments,” Eagles coach Janet Day said. “Sometimes nerves take over and if you’ve practiced the right stuff, they can come out of it some times.”
Eastern slowly wore out the Clay attack and did not allow the Panthers to reach double-digits in either of the last two frames. The Eagles walked away with wins of 25-8 and 25-7.
“That first (set) was who we were but we just fell short,” Tipton said.
The Panthers were led by Mariah Tackett’s four assists, Kaylee Moore’s three points and Sarah Pelfrey’s two kills. Clay will say goodbye to seniors Jo Pack and Emily Spriggs as they graduate.
Eastern was led by Rhyanna Day with 21 kills and seven digs and Brittany Mounts’ 34 assists and two aces. Also scoring for Eastern included Chandler Brown (five kills) Madison Knipp (four kills), Casey Howard (four kills) Miranda Clark (three kills, two aces) and Jenny Keppler (four digs).
Janet Day knows her club will face a much-improved Jeeps squad compared to the beginning of the season when they escaped with a five-set win.
“We’re outsized there, they’re a lot taller than we are,” Day said. “We’re going to have to pass well and be able to execute our offense a little better than we did tonight.”
CODY LEIST can be reached at 740-353-3101 ext. 242 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clay — 16 8 7
Eastern — 25 25 25