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Volleyball: Can You Dig It? Defense paces Lady Panthers past Lewisville for sweep
PLANO -- For the first two sets in Tuesday's non-district finale, the Lewisville volleyball team may just as well been hitting opposite a brick wall against Plano East.
That degree of defense was enough to set the tone for the Lady Panthers and while the Lady Farmers would rally late, it wasn't enough to avert an eventual sweep (25-18, 25-15, 25-14).
"Outside of a rough start tonight, our team potential is there," said Steven Jones, East head coach. "We're hoping that we continue to get better and there's no doubt about it that we're excited to get district under way on Friday."
Through two sets, the most the Lady Farmers were able to muster was six total kills - including just two in the second set - opposite a stingy East defense.
Be it the towering frame of Lewisville junior Portia Okafor or the quick-trigger set fakes by junior Kristyn Nicholson, the Lady Panthers had a counter early behind the trio of senior Gabby Litwin, juniors Brianna Blagowsky and Lily Porsa.
"Defense can always be the best offense," Jones said. "When you're playing good defense, you're always in every game and that's our mentality."
Nevertheless, East's defense was nearly offset by a smorgasbord of errors and miscues, primarily in an opening set that saw the Lady Panthers commit 12 errors, including three from the get-go that aided a 5-0 Lewisville start.
"I think it was a lack of focus," Jones said. "Sometimes you need to get more involved in the game and get some plays going, and I'm glad our girls finally got together and turned it up."
In fact, neither team registered a kill until the match's 10th point when Okafor finally found a hole in the East defense. The Lady Panthers would rally to tie the set at 11-11 behind a kill from senior Symone Stephenson, who totaled five on the night. The attack came in the midst of a 9-0 East run that included three kills from senior Kayla Burling and swayed things in the Lady Panthers' favor for good.
"We just didn't have it tonight," said Libby Rodriguez, Lewisville head coach. "I don't think we were mentally ready for some reason. We played way below our potential and that's not really what you want going into district, but I have complete faith in my team showing up on Friday."
Burling's efficiency persisted into the second frame, where she amassed four of her match-high nine kills.
Despite again falling victim to 10 errors, the Lady Panthers yielded just two kills from Lewisville and, in turn, responded with five aces to distance themselves midway through the set.
Senior Sammy Myers chipped in two of those aces, while Blagowsky clinched the set with an ace of her own.
The Lady Farmers' serve-receive didn't fare any better in the final stanza, again surrendering five aces to East. Lewisville's efforts on the offensive skyrocketed though, outhitting the Lady Panthers, 11-9, to nearly double the team's kill output from the past two sets combined.
Nicholson posted all four of her kills during that set, while Okafor added three of her team-high five kills.
It was enough to draw the Lady Panthers into a stalemate at 11-11 until East responded with a 10-2 run to put the match out of reach; a spurt that included three consecutive aces by Litwin.
"[East] was serving pretty aggressive and our passing was not good in those first two matches," Rodriguez said. "That's how you control the game and we halfway did both."
Tuesday's match signaled the end of non-district play for both teams, with the Lady Farmers beginning District 5-5A play Friday at 6:30 p.m. by hosting Flower Mound. The Lady Panthers will open their 10-5A schedule that same day at 6 p.m. when they host Allen.