by Rusty Ellis
The UCR High School Volleyball Game of the Week featured a cross-town battle between Stone Memorial and Cumberland County on Thursday, as the Lady Panthers earned a 3-0 win to remain undefeated in district play.
The first set saw Stone dominate behind an excellent start from Lucy Grothe, who had five kills to start the match. This led to a 25-12 win in the opening frame for the Lady Panthers, as they took a 1-0 lead in the match.
Cumberland County settled down and limited their mistakes in the second set, and after falling behind 22-16, the Lady Jets put up a 5-0 run to pull within one at 22-21. It wasn’t enough however, as the Lady Panthers took a 2-0 lead in the match after a 25-22 second-set victory.
Stone Memorial closed out the match with a 25-16 win in the third set, led by Hailee McDonald’s five kills. McDonald finished the match with 12 total kills and was named the Nelson Trophy and Screen Printing Player of the Game.
For head coach Tori Permenter, it’s a gritty 3-0 win that was a lot closer than the final score indicated.
“I thought we played really well, it just shows how much we’ve improved from the first meeting,” Permenter said. “CC’s a scrappy team and scrappy teams are hard to play. You think you get a point off of them, and then they somehow keep the ball alive…momentum is huge in volleyball. I told the girls if we’re going to win in three, let’s do that and not drop a set and give them hope.”
The Lady Panthers’ depth was on full-display on Thursday night. Along with McDonald’s effort, Amy Gunderson finished with 10 kills of her own, and Grothe added eight more.
When all is said and done, it might be the Lady Panthers’ depth that makes them a district championship-level team.
“We’re really senior-heavy, but we’ve also got some good players coming in off the bench,” Permenter said. “Everyone cheers on each other, and they’re giving their all for themselves and each other, and that’s good to see.”
Make no mistake, while Permenter and her team are thrilled to still be undefeated in district play, they haven’t achieved their goals just yet.
“I would love to take care of business the rest of this district slate and keep it in our hands,” Permenter said. “We try to just take it one game at a time, and we can’t overlook anyone…when it comes to postseason time, I feel like we have one of the hardest districts in the state. Livingston and Upperman are both very good squads, so we’re not taking anything for granted.”
Up next for Stone will be the Rocky Classic in Gatlinburg this weekend, while Cumberland County will take on Livingston Academy on Tuesday.