|North Lamar doesn't allow Lady Cats a sustained streak|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Oct. 2, 2004 - PARIS - Unable to put together a lengthy serving streak against North Lamar Friday night, the Sulphur Springs Lady Cats seemed to spend most of the match treading water.
They could stay afloat for only so long.
North Lamar (4-0 in district, 11-9 overall) retained their hold on the top spot in 12-4A with a 25-18, 25-17, 25-16 victory over the Lady Cats (2-2, 11-11).
The Lady Cats put together just one streak of four consecutive points, and had no more than two straight points after the first game. That allowed North Lamar to edge ahead in the middle of each game.
The Pantherettes were able to hit around the blocking of Sulphur Springs' front line of Kayla Morgan and Tara Gibby by tapping the ball to the opposite side of the court, just across the net.
Morgan led the team with seven kills and two blocks, while Hailey Watson added six kills and seven assists, and Gibby and Stephanie Kethley each had four kills. Betsy Blount had a team-high six service points and 12 assists.
"To their credit, North Lamar does a great job. They played great defense, do great positioning, and they attack the ball well and hit the ball well," said SSHS head coach John McCullough. "They were hitting around Kayla - she got a few blocks - but they can hit around the block.
"A couple of times Kayla had great blocks that would have been kills in the past week, but they do a good job of covering their hitters. Again, they're just a fundamentally sound team that doesn't make mistakes."
The Lady Cats led by no more than two points in any game. They went up, 7-5, in game one following three straight points by Watson and a spike from Kethley. But, North Lamar won the next four points and eventually stretched its lead to 19-14.
Blount had the Lady Cats' longest service streak of the match on four straight points, but NL's Brianna Slawson had five straight points to end the game. The longest volley of the match occurred on the game point when Gibby and Marlee Peugh both made diving digs to keep the ball alive, but the game ended on a borderline spike by NL that was ruled in.
Game two was the only one in which the Lady Cats did not lead, though they did tie it twice on spikes by Kristen McDonald and Gibby, the last one at 6-6. Sulphur Springs drew within two points later in the game, 14-16, but consecutive kills by NL's Robyn Bush and Cayse Holland gave the Pantherettes a comfortable lead.
Bush led NL with nine kills, while Celeste Coward had eight and Stormy Smith seven.
In game three, the Lady Cats again took as much as a two-point advantage, at 7-5, after a pair of kills by Gibby, and even led, 10-9, following a spike by NeNe Hynson. Once again, though, North Lamar won 10 of the next 13 points to put the game away.
The SSHS back line of Casey Carper, Christina Patchen and Peugh were active on digs, but the Lady Cats couldn't convert enough to put together a real run.
"I was proud of the girls' effort. The difference is that North Lamar doesn't make many mistakes. They don't make mental mistakes, they don't make physical mistakes," McCullough said. "We didn't take advantage of our opportunities when we got the chance. We got a couple of free balls and we weren't successful on those. We'd make a great play diving, but wouldn't get a kill.
"Against a team like North Lamar, any opportunity you get, you have to be successful on it."
Sulphur Springs travels to Greenville (2-2, 7-14) on Tuesday for another important district contest. The two teams are tied for either second or third, depending on the outcome of Friday's game between Texas High (2-1) and Mount Pleasant (1-2).