By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports
The historic volleyball season came to an end Tuesday for the Midlothian Lady Panthers at the hands of perennial state power Lucas Lovejoy in the 5A Region II semifinals.
Lovejoy advanced to the regional finals with 25-19, 25-14, 25-12 straight-set victory at Ellis Davis Field House in Duncanville. The Leopards remain undefeated through 23 matches this season.
Just as many an Ellis County team has experienced before, Lovejoy was just too tall and strong across the net and was able to quite literally overpower the Midlothian block. The Lady Panthers recorded only six blocks while the Leopards sent home 42 kills on 90 attempts for a jaw-dropping .367-hitting percentage as a team. Midlothian was limited to a season-low 23 total kills as a team.
Sophomore standout Kenna Buchanan led Midlothian with eight kills and added eight assists. Fellow sophomore Jenna McMichael recorded a team-best 11 digs, while sophomore Lauren Safrit had seven and senior Aryn Walton added six digs to her team-high 20 assists.
The Lady Panthers ultimately finished the season 22-4 overall after a 10-1 run through District 14-5A that they capped with the program’s first-ever outright district title.
Their lone district loss came in the regular-season finale against Joshua and on the heels of being swept by Liberty Christian. The Lady Panthers were, however, without a few starters for both of those matches.
With the team back to full strength, Midlothian cruised past Forney in the 5A Region II bi-district championship (25-11, 24-26, 25-14, 25-14). Buchanan led the Lady Panthers with 16 kills while junior Payton Rink had 10 on 34 assists by Walton. Buchanan and McMichael each recorded 22 digs.
The Lady Panthers then swept Lufkin (25-20, 25-9, 25-17) in the 5A Region II area championships to advance and face perennial power Highland Park in the regional quarterfinal championship.
The Lady Scots took the opening two sets, both at 17-25, to push the Lady Panthers to the brink of elimination. Midlothian battled back in fantastic fashion to win the regional quarterfinal title in five sets with 25-22, 25-21, 15-11 victories in the final three sets.
Buchanan recorded yet another double-double — her 17th of the season — with 15 kills and 18 digs. Armstrong turned in a strong performance at the net with 10 kills on 22 attempts for an impressive .364-hitting percentage. She also led the Lady Panthers’ block with seven total blocks, while Lauren Safrit (6), King (4), Rink (3) and Walton (2) also contributed.
McMichael matched Buchanan for the team-lead with 18 digs. Walton added 17 digs to her team-high 44 assists. Karsyn Curry (15) and Safrit (12) also helped tremendously on the backline.
All photos by Fred Phipps/KBEC Sports
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith