Lady Panthers defeat Lady Tigers in straight sets

ROSEMOUNT — When a team takes a business-like approach to the table, the results are usually, more often than not, successful.

For the Clay Panthers’ volleyball program, that was indeed the case on Thursday evening as Clay scored each of the first 15 points in the first set and 14 of the first 15 points in the third set en route to a straight-set victory over the New Boston Tigers’ volleyball program (25-7, 25-19, 25-7) on the campus of Clay High School.

In Jill Tipton’s eyes, the victory, and the way that the Lady Panthers handled themselves throughout the contest en route to the victory, was impressive to see.

“We came off of the loss to Notre Dame strong, had a good day of practice on Wednesday, and the girls responded in the way that I hoped that they would,” Tipton said. “We came out aggressive, didn’t let up, and played really well. We struggled a little bit in the second game, but pulled it back together and took care of business. The girls did a good job.”

As for Kendra Holbrook, the veteran leader of the Lady Tigers simply believes that New Boston was out-executed on Thursday evening.

“Clay is a good team,” Holbrook said. “We know that when we go up against them, they’re going to bring their best to the table. We just didn’t play our game tonight.”

From the outset, the Lady Panthers wasted no time setting the tone as Clay used the play of Jensen Warnock and Delanie Gilliland to take control early. The pair combined to collect 10 kills in the first 15 volleys — with Warnock collecting seven on her own — as Clay sprinted out to a 15-0 lead to open the contest. Then, after New Boston was able to obtain a point behind a strong 16th volley, the Lady Panthers used three consecutive kills from Taylor Lewis to spearhead a 7-1 run to effectively close out the first set.

“The girls came out strong, which is what we’re hoping for,” Tipton said. “Our goal is simply to improve from a day-to-day standpoint, so that we’re playing our best volleyball when the second half of the regular season and the postseason commences.”

In the second set, however, New Boston came out with renewed energy behind the play of Ali Hamilton, who dominated the frontline — and the statline, for that matter — for the Lady Tigers. Overall, Hamilton collected nine kills and two solo blocks on the evening — including seven kills and a block in the second set — to allow New Boston to shoot out to leads of 3-0, 7-3, 11-9, and 15-13 in the second frame.

“Ali’s consistent,” Holbrook said. “She stays consistent, and she’s a leader on the court. She helps us out a great deal.”

“We come alive in the second or third game of each match,” Holbrook added. “The first game is a warmup, and after that, we kind of come alive in the second or third game and really show what we can do. Our plan is to work on our defensive coverage. Our coverage has been there in every game prior to this one, but it wasn’t there tonight.”

But after maintaining the lead for over 25 volleys, New Boston ultimately couldn’t hold back the Clay attack as Gilliland, Lewis, and Jensen Warnock combined to collect eight kills over the next dozen volleys en route to a 9-3 run. Gilliland’s fifth kill of the second set, along with a Jaelyn Warnock ace, allowed Clay to obtain a 25-19 victory in the second frame of action.

“The girls did well moving the ball around tonight,” Tipton said. “That’s one of the little things that we’ve been working on in practice.”

With a 2-0 lead in the fire, Clay wasted no time in establishing that advantage in the third set as Jaelyn Warnock collected three aces in the first seven volleys to give the Lady Panthers a 7-0 lead to start the third set. Then, after Hamilton’s second block of the contest, an attack error by the Lady Tigers allowed Lewis to follow with three consecutive kills. Another ace by Gilliland and a kill by Jensen Warnock gave Clay a 14-1 lead heading into the middle of the third frame.

Clay, however, wasn’t done. With the lead well in hand, Shaelyn Vassar and Lila Brown performed as they had all game long and closed out the match by doing the little things that kept New Boston from getting back in the contest. Vassar collected seven digs, seven service receptions, and six points from serve, while Brown collected 34 assists in just three sets and collected an assisted block, a kill, and an ace in the game’s final 14 volleys to seal the deal for the Lady Panthers.

“Shaelyn does a good job of running the defense and hustling to cover the ball,” Tipton said. “She gets the ball to Lila, and Lila does a good job of moving the ball around and running that ball from end to end on the court. She’s been moving it around and letting our hitters hit. They both did well.”

For the contest, Gilliland, Lewis, and Jensen Warnock combined to collect 33 kills, with Gilliland and Lewis combining for three solo blocks to head the charge. Jaelyn Warnock added to Clay’s excellent performance by adding team-highs in serving points (22), digs (13), and aces (eight).

With the victory, the Lady Panthers improved to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the SOC I. Clay will make the trip to Latham on Tuesday to face Western. New Boston, who fell to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the SOC I with the loss, will host Green on Tuesday.

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Clay’s Delanie Gilliland begins her serve against New Boston on Thursday evening.’s Delanie Gilliland begins her serve against New Boston on Thursday evening. Kevin Colley | Daily Times

New Boston’s Ali Hamilton launches an attack attempt over the net on Thursday evening. Boston’s Ali Hamilton launches an attack attempt over the net on Thursday evening. Kevin Colley | Daily Times

By Kevin Colley

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Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7