APEX — The rematch of a grueling early-season, five-game contest turned out to be anti-climatic.
The Panther Creek volleyball team arrived at Middle Creek’s gym prepared for another long day between the evenly matched Southwest Wake Athletic Conference squads. A month ago, Panther Creek survived a marathon at home with a 19-17 win in the fifth game.
But Tuesday’s rematch lasted less than 90 minutes as Panther Creek’s players slung equipment bags over their shoulders and were on their way home with a 3-0 sweep of the Mustangs, 25-19, 25-21, 25-17.
The Catamounts (7-6, 5-5) have been on an upward swing under their first-year coach, Lindsey O’Connell.
“I think throughout the season we’ve become closer as a team,” said Panther Creek senior libero Hayden Lundahl. “We have such good chemistry on this team. We minimized our errors and that led to the victory.”
One turning point in the second game that led to Panther Creek ( taking a 2-0 lead en route to the sweep was the play of junior setter Caroline Wang.
The Catamounts were leading 20-17 when she put away a kill with power to end a long rally. After Middle Creek scored to trim the deficit to 21-18, another long rally ensued, but this time Wang tapped an off-speed shot over the net that fell untouched to the floor for a 22-18 lead.
“I try to extend plays – that’s my role as a setter,” Wang said. “But when I see an opening, I just go for it. That’s the way to get points and put an end to a long rally.”
While the Catamounts were making an early exit from the Middle Creek gym, the Mustangs (8-11, 3-7) gathered in a hallway. First-year head coach Danielle Martzolf discussed the disappointing performance. Then her players remained behind, sitting in a circle for a lengthy players-only meeting.
Middle Creek’s fast start this season – the Mustangs won the Heritage Invitational on Aug. 24 -- has been disrupted by injuries. Katie McCullough, the MVP of the Heritage Invitational, was sidelined by a foot injury. In her third match back, she was impressive with 11 kills.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries and had to move people into different positions,” Middle Creek coach Danielle Martzolf. “We’ve got to get back to playing as a team. Things change during a season, but you have to be able to adapt. We made too many errors to win.”