Panthers dominate Demons
WASHINGTON — The Washington volleyball team is struggling to get off to fast starts out of the gate, and Mt. Pleasant took advantage of its struggling rival to claim a Southeast Conference sweep on Tuesday.
“I really don’t have answer for it; it is something we talk about every single day,” said Washington Coach Julianna Berg. “If we could start stronger and close the gap earlier, you would see a different outcome.”
Wednesday against Mt. Pleasant, the Demons fell behind 7-1 in the first set, 5-0 in the second set and 6-0 in the final set, and went on to fall by scores of 25-17, 25-15 and 25-16.
The Demons showed glimpses of success, but couldn’t sustain it.
For instance, with its back against the wall in the third set, Washington rallied off four straight points with the Panthers looking for match point at 24-12.
But it was too little, too late, and ultimately, Mt. Pleasant was able to claim the set and the match.
“I think we have about five (players) who are in the 6-feet-tall area,” said Mt. Pleasant Coach Jeff Schulz. “Going against that can be intimidating, but they (the Demons) were fighting all the way to the end.”
One of those Mt. Pleasant hitters, Taryne Shull, had 13 kills on the night and Mary Wester added 11.
The Panthers were led at the net by Brianne Holtkamp, who had 14 kills.
As a team, the Panthers were on their game at the net with more than a 25 percent kill efficiency, their highest of the season.
Panther hitters were aided by Ashley Loving with 27 assists and Hannah Becker with 11. Brianne Potts had a team-high 18 digs and Shull had three blocks. The Panthers served 10 aces on the night, including five from Potts.
For Washington, Racheal Hall had 11 assists and Emma Stout was 9-for-9 serving with an ace. Sydney Hoffman had four blocks.
It’s the little things that are holding the Demons back from a complete performance.
“We need to work better together, talk more, move our feet more, go after every ball,” Washington’s Amber Salow said. “Once we get the puzzle pieces together, we will come out with a win.”
The pair of SEC teams were meeting for the third time this season with the Panthers winning 3-0 Sept. 10 and 2-0 Sept. 21. The latest matchup saw improved play from both squads.
“From their side you can definitely see the improvement the coach has done over there,” Schulz said. “The girls had great attitudes over there too. Give Washington the credit — they dug about a lot of balls that should have hit the ground. From our side, we were running more offense.”
The Panthers are now 20-4 on the season and remain undefeated at 5-0 in the conference.
They host Fairfield on Tuesday in another SEC contest and their first home match since Sept. 12.
For Washington (2-14, 0-6), Berg said she hopes to evoke a passion for the game out of her team, which will translate into better play.
“I tell them go out and have fun,” Berg said. “Get lost in the moment don’t worry about mistakes.”