CARTHAGE — When the Panola Fillies volleyball team stuck to the game plan, things went well. When the Fillies went away from the game plan, things went bad.
Panola was able to regroup, re-establish, hang on and defeat visiting Lee 25-19, 25-18, 22-25, 25-17 in a Region XIV Conference matchup on Tuesday night in Carthage.
“There’s a game plan for every team we play and for some reason our kids for some reason went away from the game plan,” Panola Coach Nicole McCray said of the third set. “I just had to remind them of the game plan and we did a much better job of executing that in Game 4.”
Panola (21-3 overall, 10-2 Region XIV) needed this win to stay in sole possession of second place in the conference just behind Blinn, who is ranked No. 3 in the country.
Tamara Chavez led Panola with 13 kills, Luisa Hoffman and Cassidy Cole both had nine kills, with Hoffman adding seven blocks, Andressa Soares had seven kills and 19 digs, and setter Vitoria Mattos had 36 assists and seven digs.
Libero Erin Perez had 25 digs, while Izabely Benjamin, Kristen Stewart and Kyndle Todd all had nine digs in the win for Panola.
“Lee College definitely played their hearts out,” Todd said. “I feel like we pushed through and it was a really great match. In the end we fought with heart and we won, so it was really good.”
Lee (19-14, 3-8) forced Panola to five sets back on their Sept. 8 match-up in Baytown.
After a pair of relatively stress free sets to start the match, Panola struggled in the third.
The Fillies — who this week garnered a No. 14 national ranking — quickly found themselves down 7-3 and weren’t able to even force a tie in the third.
“The third set we came out flat, nobody was talking,” Perez said. “We needed someone to step up and that didn’t happen, that’s why we lost that set.
“But overall we worked on the little things and as a team we won.”
Panola battled to cut Lee’s lead to two on three occasions late (20-18, 21-19, 24-22) but weren’t able to get over that hump.
The last thing the Fillies wanted was for the match to go five sets.
“Going into the fourth set, Coach McCray let us have it,” Perez said. “We picked it up from then on. She said we needed to pick it up and fix the little errors. We stepped it up.”
It took a little while in the fourth, but once Panola found their mojo of the first two sets it was all but curtains for Lee.
The four featured five ties, including at the 13-13 mark, but Panola was able to win six of the next eight points before Lee called for timeout at 19-15.
From then on, the Fillies kept the momentum and didn’t look back.
“Our heart and our fire to push to win,” Todd said. “We didn’t want to be defeated, and the energy that we carry on the court is very strong.”
Panola will hit the road for a Saturday afternoon match with Trinity Valley in Athens at 2 p.m.
The Fillies previously swept the Lady Cardinals back on Sept. 13 at home.
Playing at Trinity Valley isn’t easy, but Fillies will go in prepared.
“Their crowd is going to be ruthless,” Perez said of Trinity Valley’s fans. “They are like Navarro’s crowd; they are going to come at us. We just have to find it within ourselves to come out and beat them.”