The Alba-Golden Lady Panthers (22-14, 10-4) cruised past their bi-district opponent last Tuesday but came up short in the area round held Saturday at Mount Pleasant High School against the Commerce Lady Tigers (28-11, 12-0).
Including the first-round victory, the Lady Panthers were on a six-match winning streak and one of the hotter teams in the region entering their game against the Lady Tigers, winners of district 10-3A. Commerce swept Alba-Golden but the Lady Panthers battled fiercely each set, coming up short each time, 20-25, 20-25 and 21-25.
The first set was an early indicator as to what would unfold between the teams. There were nine lead changes and eight ties in the set and each team seemed unable to pull away until the final rotation.
Commerce came out hot in the second set, taking a 3-0 lead but Alba-Golden roared back to force a 5-5 tie early in the set. It was back and forth until a 14-14 tie and then Commerce began to pull away for a second straight set. The Lady Tigers finished on an 11-6 run to close out the set and forced Alba-Golden into a must-win game.
The Lady Panthers were unwilling to fold quickly in the third set but found themselves in the same position at the end. The tenacity and resolve displayed by the Lady Panthers showed Commerce that their win was earned and not given.
Gracie Pendergrass led the way for the Lady Panthers with nine kills, four digs and three blocks. The Carson sisters combined for two kills and a block each, Ginny added two digs. Breezy Weissert set up her team with 14 assists, two kills and a dig. Reagan Wilcoxson added three aces and a dig. Lindsey Roberts finished with six digs, Kenzie Chadwick finished with four kills and Aspen Howard finished with three digs.
“We had a good season. We hit some rough patches early on with injuries but we got through those,” said Head Coach TaShara Everett. “When our backs were against the wall and we were down 1-3 in district the girls could have given up but they trusted me and trusted each other. So when I changed the lineup we just started to play better.”
In their first-round game, held at Forney High School last Tuesday, the Lady Panthers captured the bi-district title with a sweep over Life Oak Cliff, 25-6, 25-20 and 25-23.
The Lady Panthers lose five seniors from this year’s team but the foundation has been solid for some time. The underclassman gained valuable experience and the Lady Panthers are built for another great season and playoff appearance in 2017.
“The second half of district we only lost one game. The younger players really stepped up this year and I know that my future players will do the same thing,” Everett said. “I’m proud of each one of my girls and their accomplishments this year.”