JACKSON, Ohio – The Clay Panthers fell to the Waterford Wildcats in their District Semi-Final Match held at Jackson High School on Wednesday evening. The Wildcats won three straight sets against the Panthers, ending their season with a final record of 17-7.
“We were flat,” said Clay Volleyball Coach Jill Tipton. “We didn’t transition well off the net, and we let them get too many points in a row.”
The Panthers went head to head with the Wildcats in the first set, before Waterford finally pulled through and won the first set by four.
In the final two sets, Waterford pulled ahead relatively early, forcing Clay to play from behind, with their backs against the wall.
Eventually the deficit was just too much for the Panthers to overcome, despite several great plays to keep Clay in the match, and competitive against Waterford.
Clay’s inability to get their serve back as well as being able to keep it was one of the reasons the Panthers fell short against the Wildcats, according to Tipton.
“We also didn’t block well,” added Tipton.
On a positive note, the Panthers will return the bulk of their team for next season. There is only one senior in this year’s squad, Gabby Hickman.
“We’re a young team. I have players that work hard and want to play,” said Tipton. “Six of those nine players out on that court are freshmen, so we’re going to go back in the offseason, and we’re going to work harder and make our way back here. I think the athleticism is there, it’s the experience that we lack,”
Tipton believes her squad will return next season and will be ready to compete on a higher level.
“What we lack is experience and confidence,” said Tipton. “The more games we play, the better we will get. They all work real hard and they play well together, as a team you can’t ask for any more than that.
“We lacked a little bit of that confidence you need to have in a tournament game.”
That confidence will help the team to work its way back from a deficit.
While Tipton is excited about all the promise of next season with most of her team returning, she also expressed her feelings on the departure of her daughter, and the team’s only senior, Hickman.
“Gabby has been a freshman starter, for four years, she was raised in the gym,” Tipton commented. “It was tough to watch her play her last game.”
Hickman was the setter for the Panthers, a key element for the team’s offense.
“Your setter kind of runs your offense,” said Tipton. “She is just a dedicated player who allows us to run all kinds of stuff. She is an integral part of our team, it is a big loss.”
On offense, Lynlee Wells led the Panthers with 14 kills. Following Wells, was Jensen Warnock who had nine kills in the contest. Taylor Lewis furthered the Panther cause with seven kills of her own, while Delanie Gilliland contributed six kills.
Hickman led her team with 30 assists, showing her value to the offense.
Waterford def. Clay 25-21, 25-20, 25-16
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931 or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82