Two years ago, Allison Fields, Naomi Sing, Bryanna Bueno, Aspen Thompson, Chinelo Ogogor, Alyssa Tatsch, and Sawyer Siemens were part of the O’Connor volleyball program that started the rebuilding process. The Lady Panthers of two years ago found themselves in a strange land. For the past 10 years, the Lady Panthers dominated the district race and traveled deep into the playoffs.
However in 2015, the Lady Panthers finished the district race in 4th place. If one game had finished differently the Lady Panthers would not have reached the playoffs.
The Lady Panthers never seemed to be concerned about their seeding or the expectations anyone had about the team or season. One by one, they faced their opponents. Just as I described 2 years ago, much like the Little Engine that Could. I Think I Can, I Think I Can. Opponent after opponent fell. The dreaded Lady Rattlers stood in their way of the regional semifinals.
The Lady Panthers walked into the gym ready for battle. In five long sets, the Lady Panthers ended the Lady Rattler run and advanced to the Regional tournament.
During the 2015 regional tournament the Churchill Chargers ended any hope of making to the State tournament.
In 2017, a growing team in wisdom and skill finished first in the district race and battled the Clark Cougars for the first seed—defeating their district foe twice out of their three meetings.
The Lady Panthers started stalking their opponents much like their animal counterparts stalked their dinner.
Team after team the Panthers chewed through the opponents until the regional quarterfinals and the Lady Chargers from Churchill. The first two games the Lady Panthers dominated the Chargers.
Then, old days and old habits—mistakes crept into the game. The balls would fall into the net instead of over the net, they ball would go to the back of the wall, and the ball would fly off the knuckles. Yet the Lady Panthers remained steady and unflappable. They continued to play even as they allowed the Chargers to come back from game point and take the set, they never seemed nervous. Just like the little engine they kept playing. They started the fifth set determined to finish the game as victors—avenging the loss from two years ago.
In fitting fashion the Lady Rattlers stood on the court as the opponent in the regional finals.
The Lady Panthers in convincing fashion defanged the Lady Rattlers in three sets. The Lady Rattlers had size, hard-hitting offense, hard hitting defense, acrobatic moves most Acro teams would covet. One missing ingredient in the Lady Rattler arsenal—unflappability. The Lady Panthers never seem to become upset or worried.
Now this team is creating another first for the school. They started this journey two years ago. They were fourth in the district, almost out of the playoffs, and now they will be traveling to Garland on Friday for the first State Champion appearance of the Lady Panthers.
The first game will be against Katy Seven Lakes. Katy’s season was affected by Hurricane Harvey but still finished first in their district. They bring a 27-7 overall record into the game. They average 12.1 kills per set, have a .228 hitting average, 224 total blocks, 15 digs per set, and 191 serving aces.
The Lady Spartans and the Lady Panthers seem to be equally matched on paper. However, I am sure the do not have calm and ice water running through the veins of their players.
The Lady Panthers will have the opportunity to demonstrate to the rest of the state, its more fun to dance on the court, tell a joke, and if a mistake is made, smile because the next serve will be an ace.
The State semifinal game will start at 7pm on Friday, November 17. If you are attending the game, ticket prices for students single day is $7. Adult single day is $12. A 2-day tournament pass costs $20. Cash and credit cards are accepted. Doors will open one hour prior to the first match.
Parking at the Curtis Culwell Center is $15
If you are taking any bags into the center, please understand Curtis Culwell Center has implemented a bag policy limiting the size and type allowed at all events.
It is against UIL policy to live stream the game using live streaming sites such as Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Twitter Live, and YouTube Live.