Plano bounces Panthers in four

November 3, 2009
BY Matt Welch Staff Writer

CARROLLTON - The postseason and adversity go hand in hand, and Plano Senior’s opening-round foray into the playoffs proved no different.

Weathering a furious fourth set surge by bi-district opponent Duncanville, the Lady Wildcats rattled off an improbable three straight blocks to clinch the match, 25-23, 24-26, 25-13, 26-24, and advance to the area round against Flower Mound Marcus.

“They just accepted the challenge,” said Jennifer Cron, Plano head coach. “We knew it was an uphill battle, but they answered and fought well.”

Late in a volleyball set, a four-point lead may as well be a death knell for the trailing team, but up 22-18 in the fourth frame, Plano surrendered six consecutive points to put Duncanville within one point of forcing a fifth and final set.

The Lady Wildcats responded with a quartet of points of their own, aided heavily by three blocks involving junior Maddy Haas.

“[The matches] have been like that (all season),” Cron said. “It was good to win in such a loud environment and Duncanville played their hearts out. They just got everything up and were swinging hard and they really played with all their hearts.

“That’s how they got themselves in that situation, so I was really proud of my players for being able to face that and get those last three blocks.”

Chalk it up to postseason jitters, the deafening crowd inside the R.L. Turner High School gymnasium, or just good, solid Duncanville defense, but the Lady Wildcats needed to overcome two sets of error-riddled volleyball before hitting their stride.

Fortunately for them, the Lady Panthers brought no shortage of sloppiness to the table early on.

Of the match’s first 16 points, 12 came as a result of an error. Plano mustered only one kill in it’s first 12 points, and tallied seven service errors in the first two sets of play.

The Lady Panthers were able to out-error Plano in the first set, as the Wildcat offense turned things up late behind a stream of kills by senior Kenzie Thompson for the eventual 25-23 victory.

The second frame wouldn’t be as kind to the Lady Wildcats, who trailed the heavy majority of the contest, despite honing in on Duncanville’s back row for 15 kills. The Lady Panthers were only able to muster eight kills of their own to counter, but Plano errors and miscommunication took their toll late and coupled with a Duncanville defensive front that totaled four second set blocks, it was too much for the Lady Wildcats to weather.

“We missed a lot of serves in Game 2,” Cron said, “and we just had to reinforce [Duncanville] making the errors and not us. We just had an incredible amount of errors in Game 2.”

The squad found it’s rhythm in the third stanza and kept the errors in check to supplement an offense that tallied 15 kills and four aces. Thompson gave Duncanville fits all throughout the evening, but received welcome complements courtesy of sophomore Alexa Novoa and senior Nikki Schuttenhelm. Novoa totaled eight kills in the third set alone, while Schuttenhelm added four.

“[Novoa] was out for a while with a sprained ankle,” Cron said. “She’s made her way back in here and gained that confidence. It’s been good, we’ve needed it and she’s come up with it.”

The furious fourth set finish advanced the Lady Wildcats over a Duncanville squad that went a perfect 12-0 in district play and had not lost a match since Sept. 7. Plano now awaits a stingy Lady Marauder squad that was victorious over Justin Northwest in three sets Tuesday night.

The Lady Wildcats hosted Marcus in mid-September, but were ousted in three sets.

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