Pointer powers Pantherettes past Pittsburg
The North Lamar Pantherettes needed a strong response following a tough home loss to crosstown rival Paris in five sets last Tuesday. On Friday, head volleyball coach Sara Beth Upchurch received exactly that from her players in a home match against Pittsburg.
“Pittsburg has improved a lot and has gotten a lot better in the past couple of years,” Upchurch said. “We know that, but I don’t really have to worry about this team bouncing back. They bounce back really fast, they always stay positive, and I just try to keep them motivated. I tell them that we are still right there, our season is not over yet, and that we are still improving. Honestly, I think they’re glad their season is still going strong, and I think they’re ready to keep it going.”
North Lamar got a big lift on the front line from an aggressive and decisive Hutton Pointer. The junior middle blocker was dominant at the net and her energy was contagious as Pointer powered the Pantherettes past Pittsburg in three sets. North Lamar moved to 5-5 in district play with the sweep over the Lady Pirates by a final score of 25-16, 25-9, and 25-12.
Volleyball Air Jordan sighting: Pointer flies high
“I was just way more confident and knew I had to adjust to things during the match,” said Pointer, who recorded 9 kills and 8 blocks. “Even if they weren’t perfect, we are on the varsity level and need to adjust. We’re talking so much more this year and learning how to do it well. We have a young team but we’ve gotten so much better in that area. I don’t even know what to say. We’ve just been practicing hard knowing that each of us has a part we need to do to the best of our abilities.”
Pointer’s strong presence on the net is something Upchurch hopes to see the rest of the season.
“When Hutton plays with confidence, you can tell she’s confident,” Upchurch said. “I’d just like her to keep that confidence because she can be such a powerhouse at the net.”
Pantherettes becoming more vocal
Along with Pointer’s performance, another strong aspect North Lamar displayed as a team was its communication. The way the Pantherette players have talked amongst themselves on the court has been a key component of the team’s forming identity.
“We just kind of came into the game knowing we were going to play at our top ability and trying to win — obviously, we go into every game like that,” Pointer said. “We knew that we could take this game and practice doing a lot of things well going into Monday’s game. We have a big one then, and this game helps us with that and our playoff run.”
Pulling away from pesky Pittsburg
Pittsburg kept up with North Lamar in the early going. The Lady Pirates and Pantherettes were deadlocked at 12 points apiece in the first set, but Pointer quickly changed the momentum of the match. She recorded a big kill and an emphatic block to give her team a two-point lead. Pointer continued to make plays as did Hannah Titlow. The Pantherettes’ fellow quality junior middle blocker got in a groove and her kill ended the first set in favor of the home team.
It was more of the same for the Pantherettes in the match’s second set. Pointer put down a big kill on a free ball, and senior outside hitter Ashley Trenchard followed with a loud kill to put North Lamar ahead 5-0 early. An ace from freshman setter Malea Holbrook and another Trenchard kill made it a 16-3 advantage later in the set. Eventually, freshman Logan Dority’s kill ended the set at 25-9.
North Lamar led comfortably early in the third set, but Pittsburg did not go quietly. The Lady Pirates trimmed a large deficit to 15-10, but a string of plays made by junior Erika King and senior libero Noel Rainey stopped the bleeding. North Lamar regained its double-digit advantage at 21-10 after a hard serve from Rainey got Pittsburg out of system and set up King for an easy kill in the flow of the offense. Lauren Dority’s kill a few points later ended the match.
Along with Pointer’s 9-kill, 8-block performance, Trenchard shined with 10 kills. Rainey added 4 digs and an assist, while senior Macy Richardson had 2 kills, 3 aces, and 3 digs. Pantherette setters Emma Doyal and Holbrook combined for 31 assists, 11 digs, and 5 aces.
Freshman twins Lauren and Logan Dority combined for 6 kills, 2 aces, and 1 block. Titlow and King finished with 8 kills collectively, while Titlow had 3 blocks. Maddie Walters also chipped in with 2 block assists while Kate Rainey smacked all three of her serves over the net.
Balance is key
Upchurch not only loves when her teammates succeed on the court, but more than anything enjoys the balanced nature of the success amongst her girls — it could be any player on any given night in her eyes.
“Ultimately, I think that is what a great team is — it’s not just one player,” Upchurch said. “I don’t have just one star player, and I have been so lucky to say that. I have different people who are on at different times and sometimes we’re all on. I just love that we do have different players that step up every single game, and it could be someone different each time, but that’s what makes this team special.”
North Lamar will play again at 6 p.m. tonight against crosstown rival Paris at Chisum High School. The teams will square off in Mustang Gymnasium to break a tie for third place in the district. For more sports coverage, click here.