|North Hopkins advanced to area round with four set win over Leverett's Chapel|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Nov. 4, 2005 - MINEOLA - North Hopkins and Leverett's Chapel were close together in the state rankings, but North Hopkins put some distance between the two teams on Thursday.
The Lady Panthers, ranked No. 7 in the state by the TGCA, handled No. 11 Leverett's Chapel convincingly in the Class A bi-district round, 25-6, 26-28, 25-17, 25-20.
It was the fourth straight year the two East Texas powerhouses have met in the first round of the playoffs, and the fourth time that North Hopkins has advanced to area. The Lady Panthers will face No. 4 Collinsville either Monday or Tuesday.
NH head coach Danna Lewis, whose team improved to 32-4, said the Lady Panthers played like they practice.
"These girls have heart in practice and in the games," Lewis explained. "What you see on the floor during the games is what I see on the floor everyday in my practice. That's heart - that's the secret."
It was no secret who Leverett's Chapel would depend on - senior Erin Lacy, who had a strong showing with 17 kills. But, North Hopkins had more weapons at the net than the Lady Lions.
NH senior Katy Williams played Lacy to a standstill with 17 kills of her own, and the Lady Panthers received eight kills each from senior TaShona Berry and junior Ebbonye Johnson and four kills apiece from Holli Argenbright and Sabra Thomas.
Senior Maegan Baxter had a team-high 34 assists, while KayLee Cotton and Williams each had 13 service points. Baxter added 11 points and a team-high three aces.
The Lady Panthers wasted no time in getting the upper hand. They took a 7-1 lead in the first game behind six straight points from Cotton and ended the game on a 13-2 run punctuated by service aces from Thomas and Johnson.
Despite being outplayed so severely in the first game, Leverett's Chapel emerged in the second set as Lacy had five kills in a span of six serves. North Hopkins had chances late to pull out the game, as they had game points twice, but couldn't pull out the win.
In the third game, the Lady Panthers broke from a 2-2 tie behind three kills by Williams in a span of four serves to go up, 10-5. The deficit never got closer than three points after that as the Lady Panthers limited Leverett's Chapel to just four kills in the entire game.
Game 4 was competitive, but when LC's Lacy rotated off the front row, the Lady Panthers outscored Leverett's Chapel 15-9 to take a 22-19 advantage off a Williams block. The Lady Lions hit the next return into the net, Baxter served an ace and Williams finished off the match with a cross-court spike.
"They had a couple of good hitters, but we had four of five that were hitting pretty well tonight and that made a difference," Lewis said. "I felt like we played pretty consistently. There were a few lulls in the second set and the fourth set where I thought we were making some bad passes. I told the girls to cut down on the errors and make good passes, because that's really where we were losing points was on the passes."
The Lady Panthers were efficient serving. They had 11 aces and only six bad serves.
They will now take on Collinsville, the team that beat them last year in the area round. Lewis said they will likely play on Tuesday at a site to be determined.