Our Lady of Mercy libero Jenny Bui yells out instruction to her teammates during
Thursday’s match with Starr’s Mill.
Thursday evening, the Starr's Mill Lady Panthers took on the Our Lady of Mercy Lady Bobcats and the Columbus Blue Devils on the volleyball court and came away perfect for the evening.
The Lady Panthers have a young team that doesn’t mind playing state-ranked teams so they can get more experience, even if it means a tough loss. They currently have a 17-19 win-loss record, but are ranked seventh overall in the AAAAA state coaches poll. The world of prep volleyball knows how tough Fayette County volleyball is, regardless of school size or classification.
Facing Our Lady of Mercy would prove to be a tough, hard-earned win for the Panthers. Winning the match in two games (25-21, 25-16), Coach Michael Melvin commented, “OLM is a heck of a defensive team and they played some of the best (ball) we’ve faced this year. We started out slow and didn’t pass as well, but got good enough to pull out a win. Three of our seniors, Claire Houghtaling, Nikki Resler and Janice Park, when they are playing their best game, we’re at our best. Tonight, all three played good, solid volleyball.”
Senior libero Park added 26 digs to her season tally and 3 aces during the match. Houghtaling notched 6 kills, 1 block and 3 aces, while Resler added 6 kills, 4 aces. Junior middle Diana Enriquez posted 5 kills, 2 blocks and 2 aces for the match.
“Our goal is to go as far as we can in the State tournament. A tough season builds for a stronger postseason team. Every team we’ve lost to is a state-ranked team.” Coach Melvin said.
Coach Bill Schmitz for the Lady Bobcats said, “We played some of our better volleyball for the year, until we made 11 unforced errors which took us out of contention. We are in a rebuilding year and all of our attack players are young, sophomores or freshmen. We always enjoy playing Starr's Mill. They are a tough team and help us get ready for state. Two players who played really well for us tonight were Mary Katherine Schmitz and Jenny Bui. Good going, ladies.”
The Panthers then faced off against Columbus, a school in the same region and classification as Sandy Creek, and a former state champion. Each team was excited going into the game, since they had split wins in the two times they faced each other so far this season.
The Panthers pulled out the win (25-23, 26-24). Leads changed practically every point, but due to stellar service and defense by Park (30 digs, 8 aces) and offense by Resler (5 kills), Enriquez (4 kills, 1 block, 4 aces) and senior Jenny Tomasello (5 kills) the Panthers overcame a late game comeback by the Blue Devils.
Right side setter Jenny Tomasello said, “This year’s been a different season due to having a young team. We have tried to reassure the underclassmen not to be nervous. We went out and played hard. It’s always a strong sense of accomplishment to play well and win against good teams.”
Houghtaling added “We played well overall, but we weren’t super aggressive. Our goal is to have a winning record and finish in the top eight or better for state. Columbus is a huge rival team for us. Two years ago, they beat us every time we played. Last year we beat them, so beating them tonight will keep us ahead for this year.”
Area tournaments begin October 4 for Our Lady of Mercy, and October 11 for Starr's Mill. The top four teams in each region move on to compete in the state playoff, which begins the following week.