In-match adjustments propel Paris past North Lamar in 5 sets
The crosstown showdown rematch had its usual intensity and energy Tuesday night at North Lamar High School. The last time the Paris Lady Wildcats matched up with the North Lamar Pantherettes at Wildcat Gymnasium, the visitors emerged victorious in straight sets. This time around, Paris had other plans. In the end, in-match adjustments propelled Paris past North Lamar in five sets. The Lady ’Cats avenged their home loss to the Pantherettes by a final score of 26-28, 26-24, 25-13, 14-25, and 15-9.
Added motivation for Paris
Paris did not forget about being on the receiving end of a sweep in its home gym from their crosstown rivals. Coming into Tuesday’s match, the Lady ’Cats had one mission — win at all costs.
“Our mentality was, ‘We’re going to come in and we’re going to destroy them no matter what it takes,’” Lady ’Cats junior outside hitter Macey McAmis said. “I mean, yeah, it was a battle, but we came to win. We did not want to lose again, so we did what it took.”
Winning a match of this magnitude is never easy, and Paris was able to pull it off from the work the girls put in leading up to the big showdown.
“We practiced really hard to get ready for these last few games knowing the importance of winning them,” Lady ’Cats junior setter Lilly Lewis said. “We’ve been in the gym every day giving 110 percent trying our best to get better so we can come out hard and beat these teams.”
How the Lady ‘Cats turned things around
This match was about having a solid game plan and showing an ability to make key in-match adjustments. Once Paris realized its defense was getting gashed by North Lamar’s front line, the Lady ’Cats made key defensive changes to turn the tide of the match.
“The main thing we did was adjust our defense,” Paris head volleyball coach Ashley Green said. “We played a perimeter defense and then I switched it to a rotational and a modified-rotational defense. We were struggling with the perimeter — it just wasn’t working for us. Once I adjusted it to the rotational and then they realized, ‘Hey, they’re hitting it there a lot,’ so that helped us a lot. And like I said, defense wins games. We knew if we could play good defense and pick up some balls, then we would be okay.”
In the first half of the match, North Lamar experienced success hitting the ball on an angle to the back left corner of Paris’ side of the court. The Pantherettes also kept Paris on its heels with several crafty tips and blocks of their own. However, Paris double blocked angle hits on either side of the net and excelled in tip coverage the rest of the way. In return, the Pantherettes could not muster up the playmaking as well as they did earlier in the match. Adjusting to your opponent during the match was key for Paris, and North Lamar was not able to counter adjust in time.
“It’s very important to see the other team and adjust to how they’re hitting or moving around our defense,” Lewis said. “If they’re taking our hits away, then we will pick another spot to hit at and keep moving it around. We try to move around our blocks, cover their tips, and adjust in any way we can to our opponents.”
As for the match itself, North Lamar got out to a 6-1 start to the first set and held a lead throughout most of the opening set. McAmis smacked a kill down the left sideline to cut North Lamar’s lead to 20-16. From there, Paris went on a 5-2 run to cut the deficit to 22-21. After that, Erica King and Hannah Titlow registered back-to-back kills to increase the lead to 24-21.
Coming out of a timeout, Paris tied it at 24-all with a 3-0 run, but North Lamar outlasted Paris down the stretch. Paris came back and won a tight second set capped off by a block from Presli Chapman. Each team won by double figures in the following two sets. Paris claimed the third set by 12 while North Lamar won the fourth set by 11. Then, Paris put the game away in the fifth set.
Setting the stage for a thrilling finish
The Lady ’Cats seemed to be firing on all cylinders offensively and defensively. Paris’ front line was limiting North Lamar’s offense while the back row alertly shagged up a large number of attacks and tips. The offense was in its system as well as the defense was. However, the Lady ’Cats’ work was not over. North Lamar jumped out to an 8-5 lead that forced Paris to call a timeout. Despite that, Paris fought back saving a secret weapon for the closing stretch.
Although she did not attack much in the first four sets, the Lady ’Cats utilized Lewis well on the right side as she recorded four kills in a row. After a big kill from senior middle Hannah Gibbons, Paris held an 11-9 lead. North Lamar called a timeout, but it could not stop Paris’ momentum. An emphatic kill from McAmis and an ace by junior Ashley McGuire capped off the closing 8-0 run and the victory in five sets for Paris.
A quality performance builds stronger unity
Green has seen her girls mesh well in recent weeks similar to her team’s level of chemistry earlier this season. Green said she has not seen the level of play she saw from her girls Tuesday night since an impressive five-set win at Bullard earlier this season. In addition to that, she and the players knew the importance this game carried with their lone senior in Gibbons. In Gibbons’ last chance to face the Pantherettes, she and her teammates responded.
“In the last game we got swept by them, I think they realized coming into this one, ‘These are our last two district games and then we go into playoffs.’ We knew winning time had to be right now,” Green said. “We can’t be regressing, we need to be progressing. I’ve been focusing on the fact that we have nothing to lose. I’ve told the girls that we need to go out there and battle, compete, and win so we can feel good about things going into the playoffs. The cohesion is there and I told them if we can play like that, then we can play like that every game. It all comes down to being consistent.”
Her players believe in the strength they possess playing in unison as well.
“A big contribution to us winning was how well we played as a team,” McAmis said. “It was more of ‘set her’ and ‘set her’ and not just setting me or one player. If I’m the only one getting sets or if we are only getting the ball to one player, we rely too much on one person. When we all do it, we’re on and we’re hard to beat.”
McAmis was stellar in the win with a game-high 20 kills to go with 8 digs, 2 aces, and 1 block. Gibbons was also impactful with 10 kills, 2 blocks, and 2 digs. Lewis chipped in with 9 kills, 49 assists, 2 digs, and 2 blocks. Chapman added 8 kills, 5 blocks, and 4 digs.
Senior outside hitter Ashley Trenchard led North Lamar with 15 kills and two blocks. Fellow senior Macy Richardson had 6 kills and 18 digs, while Hutton Pointer totaled 5 kills and 6 blocks. King finished with 9 kills and 2 blocks, while Emma Layton tallied 11 digs. Senior libero Noel Rainey compiled 24 digs and 5 assists, while Titlow contributed with 6 kills and 3 blocks.
Senior setter Emma Doyal finished with 20 assists and 16 digs, while Maleah Holbrook ended the night with 14 assists and 18 digs. Lauren Dority chipped in with 2 kills and 4 blocks.
The Lady ’Cats look to close out district play on a high note at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Pleasant Grove. Meanwhile, the Pantherettes aim to bounce back at 4:30 p.m. Friday at home against Pittsburg. For more sports coverage, click here.