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Panthers survive Lakers in five games

MA comes back from a 2-1 deficit to win a tight five-frame affair

Hanna Roberge of Inter-Lakes goes up for a block during action Friday night in Meredith. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
October 03, 2011
MEREDITH Things can change drastically in the course of a week.

While the end result was still the same, everything else had a much different feel to it on Friday night, as the Moultonboro Academy girls' volleyball team got all it could handle and then some en route to a 19-25, 25-18, 25-27, 27-25, 15-12, squeaker over border rival Inter-Lakes High School on Homecoming in Meredith.

Just a week prior in Moultonboro, the host Panthers (8-1) earned a 3-0 sweep of the Lakers, though that certainly wasn't the case the second time around.

"That was a very typical Moultonboro-Inter-Lakes match, we've been having these battles for years," said MA coach John Garneau. "(I-L) has certainly improved even in the short time between matches. Their service receive alone was much better and they played a heck of a match."

The match marked the end of a potentially season-changing week for the Lakers (5-4), as the squad beat defending state champion Winnisquam, ending the Bears' 27-match win streak in the process, and came back from an 0-2 hole to knock off Portsmouth Christian Academy, 3-2. Not surprisingly, I-L coach Randy Mattson was ecstatic about the play of her team after an exciting stretch of matches.

"What a great week," she said after the MA loss. "I felt pretty confident we had the potential to play like this at the beginning of the season but I think it took awhile to get used to playing together. Now I think the girls understand how to play with intensity and they understand that you need to play with a high level of intensity for an entire match."

On a night where the entire I-L gymnasium was decked out in pink in honor of breast cancer awareness, visiting MA overcame several tense moments to secure the tough road win. With the Lakers leading two games to one, a huge kill from I-L middle hitter Jordan Donohue set up match point at 25-24 in game four. But with the near-capacity crowd at a fever pitch, the Panthers rattled off three straight points, including back-to-back kills from senior outside hitter Brittney Hale, to even the contest and send it to a decisive fifth game.

"We just push ourselves in those situations," said MA senior Kaitlin Slippy. "We were kind of down after losing the first and third games, but we got the momentum back by winning that fourth game."

The end result was still very much in doubt during game five however, as I-L opened the frame with a 3-1 lead thanks to an ace from senior captain Kira Goodheart (17 kills). The lead grew to 11-8 after an MA serve found the net but that's when the reliable serving of Hale came up big once again. Hale put down a kill to get an MA side out and then registered three consecutive aces to put the Panthers up 12-11.

With MA now clinging to a 13-12 lead, Slippy, who finished with 22 kills and 18 digs for the Panthers, put the finishing touches on the win by putting home two kills and the 15-12 clinching victory sent MA back down Route 25 happy.

"That's been typical with these kids," said Garneau of the comeback. "We've fallen behind a few times now and the kids just battle back and find a way. This was definitely a tournament atmosphere match, the crowd was great and everyone was into it. It's just amazing to me that kids this age can perform at this level for such a long time under these circumstances. It's very impressive."

While the loss was disappointing to the host Lakers, there was still plenty to take away from match. I-L set two school records on the night, as Donohue set the kills mark with an outstanding total of 27. Senior captain and setter Hanna Roberge broke her own school record of 43 assists, set just two nights earlier in the win over PCA, as she dished out 57 assists in the MA match.

"I think the girls felt very good with how they played tonight," said Mattson. "Yes, they're disappointed to lose, but they know they played a great match."

Slippy's 22 kills led MA, while Hale was right behind with 19 and five aces. Kim Delaney finished with three solo blocks while Kassie Malm chipped in 19 digs for the Panthers. Dana Jackson and Kelsi West added solid outings along the back row in the win.

"Kaitlin really stepped it up, as did Brittney," said Garneau. "Once you get in those big games, it all comes down to who sets it up and who puts the ball down. You want those kids playing big roles in a match like this."

Katie Schwartzer had a nice match for the Lakers, as she totaled five kills and 12 service points while Mikaela O'Neil had a scrappy night on both ends and finished with five kills as well. Lydia Swedberg had 12 digs in the loss.

"These kinds of matches are preparing us for the future," said Mattson. "We're starting to see that we can compete with these teams and I think that our confidence is really going up by the match. It's gone up dramatically in the past two weeks."

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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