CLAY TOWNSHIP — While early on it seemed as if host Clay would be playing catch-up, the Lady Panthers showcased promising signs in their 3-0 sweep of the visiting Valley Lady Indians on Monday.
Trailing 23-19 in set one, the Lady Panthers scored eight of the final ten points in the set, besting Valley 27-25 to take a 1-0 match lead.
But the strong comebacks wouldn’t stop there.
In the second, Clay held off Valley’s comeback attempt of its own — after the Indians forced a win-by-two scenario at 24-24.
By scoring the final two points of the set to take the win 26-24, Clay had won the first two sets by the narrowest of margins.
Entering the third set, and attempting to hold on to its match lead on the home court, Clay managed another comeback attempt — this time by scoring 19 of the final 20 points and winning the game 25-18 after once trailing 17-6.
The three-set win over visiting Valley, a Division III program, was Clay’s first of the season in three tries.
Valley falls to 0-3 following the defeat.
“I definitely thought we hustled and played with a lot of intensity in the first and third sets,” third-year Clay coach Sarah Hammond said. “Second set we controlled the lead a little bit, but I thought we played a little off at the end. Everybody stepped up, pitched in. It took an all-around team effort to fight back and win.”
The 2020 campaign marks the start of the second full season since the Lady Panthers and Hammond, as a first-year coach, won their first Division IV regional volleyball title in school history.
“We play a couple of freshmen and sophomores who don’t have a ton of experience on varsity,” Hammond said. “And the couple of seniors and juniors I do have, they were under those classes we’ve had in the past with six or seven seniors, so they haven’t had as much time playing.”
Despite that youth from some of her regular rotation, the Lady Panthers still managed a win that shows her team is growing and getting better as they gain experience playing at the varsity level.
Junior libero Kyleigh Oliver had a team-high five service aces and a team-high 25 digs from the Lady Panthers’ back line.
Setter Shaley Munion had 37 assists and Kaidyn Fannin had 27 assists.
Jordyn Mathias and Morgan McCoy each had two solo blocks at the net for Clay.
The Lady Panthers began their league schedule on Tuesday by traveling to Green and continuing their trek on Thursday when they travel to Notre Dame.
“I think our league’s going to be tough this year,” Hammond said. “We’re striving for first-place, but all we can do is step on the court and play as hard as we can with the best attitude possible. Green will be tough tomorrow (Tuesday), they’ve improved a lot over the last few years.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved