Lakewood’s varsity, holding a 9-0 record, traveled to rival Pender — who they had beaten for the conference championship last year and in the third round of the state playoffs — Thursday night for their first matchup this season. And just as they did in the early part of last year, the Leopard girls fell to the home team 3-1.
But it was close throughout, with the powerful Leopards winning on the long rallies but losing in the short game, an issue coach Sheila Davidson said they’d be working on as they begin the last half of this volleyball season.
“As big a game as this was in some ways, I’d rather lose to them early in the season than later when it really matters the most,” Davidson said. “We’ll take the lessons we learned from this game, get back to practice and work on them, and when we play again we’ll execute better.”
Davidson praised the Pender varsity, saying they played their absolute best Thursday against the Leopards. “That’s the good news. We’ve seen them at their very, very best.”
And the Leopards, she said, weren’t at their peak. “We had some good moments and we had some not-so-good moments tonight (Thursday),” Davidson stressed.
Lakewood won the first set 23-25. It was a set, Davidson said they actually shouldn’t have won. “Somehow we pulled that one out, but then again, we should have never lost the fourth set, but we did. The last 3 or 4 points came because we had a net violation and double-contact calls.”
The Leopard varsity lost the last three sets 25-14; 25-18; 25-23.
As she has in the other 9 games the varsity has won, Davidson stressed the need for her girls to work harder on their serve-receive.
“We’ve got to execute our very best from point 1 to point 25.”
The loss moves Lakewood’s varsity to 10-1 overall and 5-0 in the conference.
Individually for the varsity, Allyson Heinz had 21 assists; Morgan Herring, 14 kills, 12 service points; Bailey Dudley, 3 kills, 11 service points; and Tiesha Rich, 9 kills, 3 blocks.
The JV Leopards put a W in their column at Pender, taking the Patriots in 2, 21-25; 11-25.
“They played as good as I’ve ever seen them play, their absolute best,” Davidson said of the younger Leopards.
But Davidson was quick to point out that Pender’s younger girls were aggressive and deadly. “They are playing solid soccer, like they are supposed to. Our girls were just at their very best and it showed.”
Individually for the JV Leopards, Emily Green had 11 assists; Alissa Horne, 4 aces and 11 service points; Rashyda Parker, 7 kills, 12 service points, 4 aces and 4 blocks; and Aleah Parker, 3 kills and 5 service points.
Aleah Parker, Davidson said, had her best game yet on defense.
The Leopards return to the court Tuesday when they host county rival Union. Game time is 4:30 p.m.