Volleyball drops a close one to state-ranked Farmersville.

By Griff Servati
For the Van Alstyne Leader
Jaidan Servati celebrates a block with her teammates.

The Lady Panthers played host to the state-ranked Lady Farmers of Farmersville on Friday, September 3rd. The Lady Farmers came with a 23-1 record and ranked third by state volleyball coaches.

VAHS first-year head coach Kelly Hutchinson said of the loss, "This was probably my favorite game to coach so far, even though the outcome didn't happen in our favor. It's the best I've seen this team play together. I think the main difference between this game and the other was the preparation. They did the hard work of not only physically preparing for the game but mentally as well. They gave everything they possibly had from the first to the last, and I'm very proud."

Lanie Thorpe stretches for a ball in game action against Farmersville.

The Lady Panthers entering the game saw another critical player on the bench due to injury. Senior Setter Abby Lange injured her knee in the recent tournament at Argyle. She joined Senior Middle Hitter Hannah Hemphill, sidelined since August 17th with a hairline foot fracture. With Lange's injury, the setting duties went from a shared role to a single position resting on Junior Lanie Thorpe.

The Lady Panthers had one game to work on the new lineup, a 3-0 victory over Bells on Tuesday night, August 31st. The Lady Panthers struggled early against a young Bells team that had four freshman players, trailing 17-22 in the first match before coming back to win 25-22. They would go on to the sweep Bells in three games, but the question over the team would be how long would it take to get accustomed to a new lineup.

Senior defensive specialist McKena Jensen gets a dig.

Coach Kelly Hutchinson had her team ready for the challenge to face the top-tier Lady Farmers from the first tip. Early on, the Lady Farmers learned that this would not be the easy victory as it was in the previous year when they won in a dominating sweep. The Lady Panthers would grab game one with a 25-20 advantage. In-game two, the Lady Panthers would pull out an extended-time victory with a 27-25.

The Lady Farmers found themselves down in a 0-2 advantage in game three. Their team shirts had one word printed on the back of them, a focus for the season, "Unfazed." It would take that mentality to pull out a victory. Coach Hutchinson knew the Lady Farmers would respond, "After winning the first two sets, we knew that Farmersville would not give it to us that easy. So we knew we had to come out in the third set ready for a fight, and that's exactly what it was until the last point of the fifth set." The Lady Farmers would capture the third game with a 25-19 win.

Fans at Panther Gymnasium were treated to some outstanding volleyball in the next two games. Each of the final two games would be a back-and-forth affair and needed an extended play to declare a winner. Game four would be a 30-28 victory for the Lady Farmers. The Lady Panthers had thought they had won the match when they took the 15-14 advantage, and a Farmersville ball fell out of bounds on the next play. The team celebrated the win only to notice the referee gave the point to the Lady Farmers. The call was that a Lady Panther blocker touched the ball at the net before going out of bounds. The two teams would battle until the Lady Farmers would eventually prevail 22-20.

Maci Densmore makes impact for a hit.

Samantha Moore led the Lady Panthers with 17 kills, six blocks and three aces. Maci Densmore added 13 kills, Riley Ross had 11 kills and 17 digs, and Lacey Thorpe had 25 digs.

Coach Hutchinson added, "I hope this is a stepping stone for them to see their potential and that we can only go up from here. I have high expectations for these girls and this team and will believe in them until the end."

The Lady Panthers will open their district play on Friday night when they host Anna at Panther Gymnasium. Friday games begin at 4:30 pm, with varsity teams playing before the junior varsity matchups.

Riley Ross tips at the net.
Lydia Carroll blocks at the net.