That old saying of close only counting in horseshoes and hand grenades could aptly apply to the Spring Hill Lady Panthers.
The Lady Panthers opened the 2019 volleyball season Friday night against Prairiland’s Lady Patriots and put up a spirited fight. But the end result was a straight-set 25-20, 25-18, 25-21 defeat to open the Andrew Harbison period as head coach of the Lady Panthers.
“I told the girls afterwards I’m not for moral victories, I’m for victories,” said Harbison. “I thought the girls played hard. We made some silly mistakes. We’re right in every game, but we need to find us a closer. Prairiland had a closer and did a good job setting her.”
The Lady Panthers led at some point in each set. At times they seemed poised enough to win all three sets. After eight ties and five lead changes in the opening set, the Lady Panthers held an 18-15 lead when Molly Seale served an ace.
Baylor Sessums, who paced the Lady Patriots with three kills in the opening set, got hot from the service line and ran off five straight before A’Zaria Jones broke for the Lady Panthers at 19-23.
Prariliand responded with a Madison Clark kill taking it to set point. Sessums nicely sat T.J. Folse, who slammed down the set-clincher for a 1-0 lead.
In the second set, the Lady Panthers suffered a couple net violations and were called for four hits after a long rally. That infraction took it to 16-22 as there were only three ties and two lead changes in the second.
Unofficially, Spring Hill was cited for a half dozen net violations and caught out of rotation once in the third set.
“We want to play hard. We want to play smart. And we want to play together. I thought we played hard,” Harbison said. “We’ve got to raise our volleyball IQ. The girls will fight you tooth and nail for every point and that’s the stamp I want to put on the program.”
The Lady Panthers doubled up Prariliand in the second set at 6-3 following a kill shot from Taylor White. The Lady Pats, with Sessums serving, reeled off six unanswered and never looked back in the set.
Spring Hill fell behind 5-1 early in the third but rallied back as Sam Schott used a punch shot that found the floor at tied the set at 7-7. Maci Plunk assisted Seale on a nice slam as the Lady Panthers continued to fight. Seale came through to break service and Schott gave Spring Hill a 10-9 advantage.
Seale slammed another one down and Plunk made a spectacular backward pass that somehow went unreturned by Prairiland and gave Spring Hill a 12-11 lead. Ansley Nichols’ winner from the line moved the Lady Panthers out two clear at 17-15.
The Lady Pats rallied to take a 19-17 lead before being called for reaching over the net. Plunk came up with a timely block that knotted set for the 11th time. Errant passing enabled Prairiland to take it to match point and the game ended on a Spring Hill net violation.
Unofficial numbers had Plunk and Seale three kills apiece, while Schott came up with four digs.
“Our theme this week was consistency. It was just too much we’d get stuck in a rotation, not transition and hit the ball out. We just didn’t adjust. They hurt us a lot with tips,” Harbison explained. “I’m proud of the girls and the way they fought. We will get better. This just gives us a lot to work on.”
Spring Hill is home Tuesday against Mount Pleasant.