October means playoff high school volleyball, but neither Panther Creek nor Green Hope waited until later in the month to play a match worthy of the postseason.
Panther Creek’s 3-2 victory in front of Green Hope’s raucous home crowd forces a tie atop the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference with just a few weeks left. It is the Falcons’ first loss of the season. Panther Creek’s only losses have come to teams it has split head-to-head meetings with: J.H. Rose in nonconference and Green Hope in SWAC play.
The Catamounts (16-2, 11-1) are a different team than they were in the first match with Green Hope. Panther Creek setter Alani Alderman wasn’t shy about passing to middle blockers Kayla Spells and Daryn Armstrong for points.
“That was part of the plan, absolutely,” Panther Creek coach Karen Garman said. “Our middles have gotten stronger, gotten better offensively. And when they’re hitting well, and our momentum’s up with them, they also put up a great block, so it puts all the pieces together. And that is not something we did not show them last time.”
In order to repeat its SWAC title, Panther Creek must win out. Even if Green Hope does the same, that would mean a co-title for each (and a game on a neutral court to determine who gets the automatic bid from the league).
But the Catamounts will have to avoid pitfalls against the league’s Nos. 3-5 teams: Apex, Holly Springs and Middle Creek.
“One of our goals this year was to be No. 1 in conference like last year, so I think that will push us through,” said PC senior Emily Maggio. “Now that we’re tied with Green Hope, we don’t want to go down to second place because we lost to someone else.”
Coach Karl Redelfs doesn’t think this was his team’s best performance, and there’s good reason to think that. After the first set, the Falcons (16-1, 10-1) didn’t display the same precision in their passing.
“I think we kind of gave it to them as far as all our hitting errors. That was the story for the night, we had a lot, a lot of errors,” Redelfs said. “(Panther Creek) is still a good team, I felt our errors dominated the game pretty much.”
But Redelfs thinks this could be a valuable lesson for his group. His 2011 team was 14-0 before suffering its first loss and ended 24-2 with an appearance in the East regional final.
“I think it’s good. I think every team needs a loss, I think that’s where you learn the most,” Redelfs said. “It’ll hurt a little bit, but we’ll move past it and get ready for the next one.”
First set: Green Hope survives 25-23 over Panther Creek as the Catamounts came on strong late, getting Emily Maggio more involved.
Second: Panther Creek evens the match 1-1 with a 25-19 win. Green Hope came back a little thanks to an improved block.
Third: Panther Creek takes the third set and a 2-1 lead, 25-13.
Fourth: Green Hope forces a fifth set with a 25-22 win over Panther Creek.
Fifth: Panther Creek jumps out fast and wins 15-7.