As postseason play approaches, the Clay Panthers appeared as if they were ready for their upcoming challenges in their victory Monday night on their home court against the Valley Indians in straight sets (25-13, 25-11, 25-7).
The Panthers, who lost their first game of SOC I play last Thursday night in a home match against Notre Dame in four sets, were primed for a bounce back win in their match with the Indians. Clay came out of the gate on a hot start by scoring the first six points of the first set to take a 6-0 lead in the set. Two runs of four points and one run of five points helped secure the first set in favor of the Panthers by a score of 25-13.
Clay would carry their momentum from the first set into the second set by opening on a 5-0 run and ending the set on an eight point streak to win the set, 25-11. Statistically, Clay was led by Jensen Warnock with 19 kills and Delanie Gilliland with 16 kills. Setting those two was Lila Brown who led the Panthers with 34 assists to her teammates. Gilliland also led Clay in service points on the night with 20 points. Libero Shaelyn Vassar and Warnock were tied for the most service receptions with 7 each.
Clay head coach Sarah Hammond was proud of the play from her seven seniors in their win Monday night. “They all played very well for us” said Hammond, “We did a lot of subbing that we didn’t normally do to try and keep our girls fresh and avoid injuries. They’re all big players for us, couldn’t ask for much more than what they gave us at the service line and at the net tonight.”
The Panthers took their 2-0 match lead into the third and final set of the night where they continued their strong play as the postseason approaches. Clay would go on to win the final set by a score of 25-7, their best margin of victory in Monday night’s contest. Hammond was glad that she was able to play some different girls in their final set who might not always get the chance to play since they are led by seven seniors. “It’s nice to get the underclassman in there because I’m not always able to get them in” said Hammond, “With seven seniors graduating, they are next year’s team. It’s nice to be able to get them that experience they will need for the upcoming seasons.”
Following Thursday night’s loss at the hands of Notre Dame, if both teams finish out their conference play without dropping another game, the Panthers and Titans will split the SOC I title this season. As the end of the regular season approaches and teams prepare for the postseason, Hammond is instilling in her team to finish the regular season strong in preparation for a potential postseason run. “Most importantly we have to finish our four regular season SOC games” said Hammond, “We have to make sure we do finish strong to get that tie (with Notre Dame) and not drop one of those games. Once we do that, we just have to go back to the very beginning and build back up in preparation for these games because we’ll probably have to face them once again in tournament play. We just want to get stronger and stronger each and every day and not over look any of these last games.”
The Panthers will next face the Western Indians in a road trip to Latham on Thursday night.
As for Valley, they will travel to Minford Thursday night to play the Falcons in an SOC II matchup as the end of the regular season approaches.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT