Senior night at Lakewood Tuesday was a night Leopard volleyball players and fans won’t soon forget. No. 2 Lakewood pulled off the upset, beating No. 1 Pender in 3 out of 5 sets: 26-24, 20-25, 25-15,16-25, 16-14.
Both teams hit hard and never gave up when it came to chasing the ball down to keep it off the floor.
“It was a great team effort. I’m so excited and grateful that the seniors pulled it out. They worked so hard and deserved it. I’m just proud they could do it,” an elated Lakewood head coach Sheila Davidson said as Leopard fans swarmed the floor in jubilation after the final set.
“Pender or us could have won that game. It was whoever had the momentum and who was not rattled at the last. Luckily on that last timeout when the score was 11-11, we got unrattled and got ourselves back together and (Pender) stayed rattled last. That’s the bottom line,”she added.
Why did it take five sets to beat Pender? “We’ve got to work on our serving. They aced us 17, 18 times all night and we aced them 3 or 4. That’s a big difference. When we served, the ball came right back at us, but when they served we got aced three or four times,” she explained.
The Patriots led most of the first set, but Lakewood managed to tie it up at 21 as Leopard fans chanted, “I believe we can win.” The score was back and forth until it was tied at 24 and Bailey Dudley hit a kill shot for the go-ahead point. On the next volley, Morgan Herring hit a kill shot that gave Lakewood the win, 26-24.
In the second game, the momentum swung toward the Patriots. Despite 8 straight Leopard points when Pender was at 24, the Patriots finally got the win, 20-25.
In the third game, it was all Lakewood once the score reached 14-all. Pender would score one more point to Lakewood’s 10 for a 25-15 win. Pender took control of the fourth game with a 16-25 win.
The atmosphere in the gym for the fifth game, which only goes to 15, but a team must win by 2, was filled with tension and cheering from both sides. The score was tied at 4-4, 7-7, then 12-all, and finally at 14. The Leopards managed to come away with the final two points to win the set and the match.
Teisha Rich put down an astonishing 20 kill shots, 8 service points, 5 blocks, and 1 assist. Allyson Heinz had 35 assists and 10 service points; Morgan Herring, 19 service points, 17 kills, 1 block; Bailey Dudley, 11 service points, 8 kills, and 5 blocks; Servance, 26 service points, 2 blocks; Katie Stewart, 6 service points, 1 kill; Rashyda Parker, 9 kills, 8 blocks; and Anna Heinz, 8 service points, 2 aces.
The Leopard junior varsity continued their winning streak, and easily won both sets against the Patriots, 25-10 and 25-12.
Emily Lewis had 12 assists and 2 aces out of 4 service points. Rashyda Parker had 6 service points, 7 kills, and 1 block; Aleah Parker, 11 service points.; Anna Heinz, 3 aces out of 10 service points.; Kiara Rich, 12 service points., 8 kills; and Bianca Boone, 1 kill, and 5 attack shots.
If Lakewood wins Thursday when they travel to Union and Pender defeats Trask, then the Leopards and the Patriots will be co-champions of the conference.The conference tournament begins Monday and Lakewood will play at home. The Tuesday semi-final games and the Wednesday championship game will be held at Union.