Lady Panthers end season with Area loss

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Bullard def. Henderson 25-16, 25-21, 25-23

After prowling their way through district play and achieving an undefeated run to the Class 4A District 15 District Champion title, the Bullard Lady Panther varsity volleyball team resumed action last week, traveling to nearby Arp High School for a Bi-District playoff matchup against the Henderson Lady Lions Monday, Oct. 30.

In the first set of play, the Lady Panthers scratched and clawed at the opposition, using their powerful offensive production to shred through the Lady Lions’ defense, en route to taking the first set win in the playoff battle, 25-16.

Henderson was able to rebound and recover from their first set loss, as the Lady Lions were on the hunt in the second frame, going on several strong offensive runs.

However, the Bullard defense proved to be too much to overcome; the Lady Panthers held strong, using every weapon in their defensive arsenal, while complimenting their defense with their offensive abilities, claiming the win in the second set, 25-21.

With the Bullard squad on the verge of taking down the competition, the team from Henderson showed their teeth and battled their way back into the contest with a strong push in the third set. Despite their efforts, the Lady Panthers rose to the occasion, capitalizing on key offensive and defensive plays to win the Bi-District cat fight, sweeping the Lady Lions in three sets, 25-16, 25-21, 25-23.

The Lady Panthers were led to the Bi-District title by the well-rounded efforts on both sides of the ball by sophomore outside hitter Sara McKeethan, collecting a total of 14 kills offensively and 13 digs defensively.

Other significant contributors for the Lady Panthers against the Lady Lions included sophomore setter Kylie McKeethan, with 19 assists and six digs; senior setter Destinee Dixon, with 18 assists and five digs; freshman outside hitter Keili Richmond, with nine kills and nine digs; and junior middle blocker Ashlyn Meador, with eight kills.

Texarkana Pleasant Grove def. Bullard 23-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-17, 15-13

After claiming the victory in the Bi-District contest against Henderson, the Bullard Lady Panther varsity volleyball team pounced into the Area round, battling against the Texarkana Pleasant Grove Lady Hawks Thursday, Nov. 2, at Longview’s Pine Tree High School.

As the contest began, the Lady Panthers and Lady Hawks both fought hard to control the flow of the matchup’s momentum, trading offensive blows in the back-and-forth affair. The Lady Panthers were able to withstand the test, taking the first set victory, 25-23.

In the second set, the Lady Hawks were able to soar their way back into contention, as the new set proved to be just as hard fought as the first. Despite the first set loss, Pleasant Grove recovered and held on to a slim lead late to take the win in the second frame over Bullard, 25-23.

Not to be outdone, the Bullard squad came roaring back against Pleasant Grove, swiping at the competition with their sharp claws to take a narrow lead and turn it into a win in the contest’s third set, 25-23.

Although the Lady Panthers held a 2-1 set advantage against the Lady Hawks entering the matchup’s fourth set of play, the team from Bullard was unable to capitalize and claim victory outright, as the Pleasant Grove squad came fighting back, using a strong offensive attack to defeat the Lady Panthers in the fourth set, 25-17, forcing a first-to-15 fifth set.

In the final set of the Area battle, the Lady Hawks flew out to an early lead, but the Lady Panthers clawed their way back to within one point. However, the attack by the Pleasant Grove team late was too much for Bullard to handle, as the Lady Hawks claimed victory in the Area game, defeating the Lady Panthers in five sets, 23-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-17, 15-13.

Once again, Sara McKeethan was the leader of the prowl for the Lady Panthers, amassing a total of 32 defensive digs, as well as 14 kills and three blocks in the Area contest against the Lady Hawks.

Other significant contributors for the Lady Panthers against the Lady Hawks in the Area matchup included Dixon, with 21 assists and 11 digs; senior defensive specialist Kailan Bellew, with 14 digs; Richmond, with 12 digs and nine kills; and Meador, with 11 kills and six blocks.

“The season ending after the Area playoff game was an emotional event for all of us,” said Cristy O’Bannon, Lady Panther volleyball head coach. “The girls put everything they had both physically and mentally into that match and I couldn’t have asked for anything more from them. We knew going in that it would be a battle, and the match didn’t disappoint. It truly was a coin flip as to who would come out ahead at the end. I just hate that we came up a little short because those girls deserved to have their season go a little longer, more so than any group I’ve ever coached.”

With the victory over Henderson in the Bi-District round and the loss against Texarkana Pleasant Grove in the Area contest, the Bullard Lady Panther varsity volleyball team ended the 2017 season with an overall record of 29-11, 10-0 in district play, and claimed recognition as the undefeated 2017 District 15-4A District Champions, Bi-District Champions, and Area Finalists.

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