By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports
The Midlothian Lady Panthers won a five-set regional-quarterfinal thriller Tuesday night against Forney at Duncanville High School.
Midlothian dropped the first and third sets but hung tough to take sets two, four and five for the 5A Region II quarterfinal win, 20-25, 25-19, 23-25, 25-19, 15-13.
“I think we played amazing,” Midlothian junior setter Aryn Walton told KBEC Sports. “We came out here with a goal and we executed that goal as best as we could. We couldn’t have done it without all of the support from our fans and everyone on the bench cheering loud. We needed every single one tonight.”
Following the victory, second-year head coach Shain Sackett applauded the effort of his team and noted the Lady Panthers began to turn a corner during the second half of district play.
“To win the regional quarterfinals is pretty sweet,” said Sackett to KBEC Sports. “And to go to the sweet 16 for the first time in a long time, let me tell you, it is quite an accomplishment for these girls.
“We have a couple freshman and sophomores making up the bulk of the team and then have those seniors and juniors providing the leadership on the floor. It has just been a great mix. It took a while to develop but, once it did…all of it has come together at the right time.”
Walton led the Lady Panthers with a team-best 42 assists, while also adding nine kills, 15 digs, one block and two aces.
Walton, who has played several positions in an expanded role for the Lady Panthers this season, said she “couldn’t have [had her success] without coach Sackett and [Tanya] Hydes pushing me through every single set. Every time I got down on myself, they got me up and made me who I am today. I couldn’t have done it without either of them.”
Kenna Buchanan fired home a team-high 22 kills to go with her seven digs. Kennedy King and Madison Hall each recorded eight kills and combined for five blocks.
Jenna McMichael led the team with 33 digs and was followed by the 16 digs recorded by Madeline Smith, who also added seven assists.
The victory improved Midlothian to 26-17 on the season. The Lady Panthers will face the winner of Highland Park and Lebanon Trail in the 5A Region II semifinal at 5 p.m. Friday at Richardson Berkner High School.
And, if all goes according to plan, the Lady Panthers will meet the rival (35-10) Red Oak Lady Hawks in the 5A Region II championship on Saturday with a state tournament appearance on the line.
“If we can get to that regional final match against Red Oak, it’ll be one heck of a battle,” Sackett said. “[…] We will first find out who won (between Highland Park and Lebanon Trail) and then try to develop our plan of attack and see what we can do on Friday to get into that regional final.”
Walton added, “We are all so excited. We had two close games against Red Oak but we are ready for that rematch and to have the best game of our lives.”
All photos by Fred Phipps/KBEC Sports
Fred Phipps/KBEC Sports contributed to this report.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith