PDT Sports Editor
The top seeded Eastern Eagles defeated No. 4 Clay in a Division IV Semifinals match in straight sets.
Eastern, 23-1, took the opening set 25-16, then won sets two and three, 25-11, 25-19.
Clay, 18-7, struggled to win points consistently on serve, which is a top priority for Eastern coach Janet Day.
“Serve reception,” Day said. “My philosophy is if you serve receive well and only let one point or less be scored by the opponent, and if you rotate, your going to score points and your going to stay ahead of the game.”
Jenny Keppler led the Eagles with 34 assists. Bailey Helton, Carson Roney and Casey Howard aided Keppler offensively.
Cassidy Rowe replaced injured starter Cassidy Roney who left mid way through the first set with a knee injury. Rowe had 15 digs on the evening.
“I was really proud of Cassidy Rowe, and how she stepped up and took Cassidy Roney’s spot,” Day said.
After dropping the first two sets, Clay led the majority of the third frame. With the scored tied a 16 a piece, Eastern used a 9-3 run to end the contest. The Panthers struggled to build consistency against the Eagles.
“I don’t like the fact that we have a week off in between games,” Clay coach Jill Tipton said. “We played last Thursday and had a whole week off until we played this Thursday. That’s a long time. It’s not an excuse. We should have been ready to play. We were a little flat to start the game and we didn’t pass well. “
Tipton said her team lacked focus through much of the game.
“We have to be mentally prepared, even with the week off,” Tipton said. “Eastern had a week off too, same as we did. We just weren’t mentally prepared and sometimes I think we lack a little confidence when we step on the floor, which is frustrating.”
Despite the loss, Anne Hopkins, Gabby Hickman and Lexi Gilliland had strong performances for the Panthers. Hopkins had eight kills while Gilliland recorded four kills. Gabby Hickman had 16 assists in the loss.
Clay loses Hopkins, Katie Redding, Jess Moore and Chasity Adams to graduation.
“I have a great group of seniors that work well with the team and they are very dedicated. They just work really well,” Tipton said.
Chris Slone can be reached at 353-3101, ext 298, email@example.com. For breaking sports news, follow Chris on Twitter @crslone.