The CAU Lady Panthers were on fire coming into last week’s double header, winning 4 out of their last 5 games during the SIAC Volleyball Crossover Tournament.
CAU weas swept by the Georgia College & State University Lady Bobcats, but won their second match against the Talladega College Tornadoes moving their season record to 8-6.
Game two came down to the final set. The Tornados and Lady Panthers gave the crowd some truly nail-biting entertainment. Despite dropping the fourth set and allowing the Tornadoes to force a fifth, the Lady Panthers did not let the pressure get to them.
Clark Atlanta head coach Joelle Mafo said, “We were resilient in the second match.” She further explained, “At the end, we pulled through as a team to try and focus on winning the game.”
Towards the end of the match, Clark Atlanta found themselves at match point leading by two, but before they won the match, the Tornadoes cut the deficit by tying the game at 14 on a kill from sophomore outside hitter Kiana Polk and an attack error from the Lady Panthers.
CAU now needed two more points to take the match. They applied pressure, scoring their game winning points off two errors from the Tornadoes.
What got both teams to the fifth set? The best answer may be inconsistency.
Coach Maf0 shared, “[Our consistency] is poor. That is one thing we are struggling with consistently with offense and defense. This is something that has been a point of focus for a whole season this year.”
The set that the Lady Panthers lost, they had 8 or less kills. Also, they had nearly the same number of kills and errors. In set two CAU had 6 kills and 4 errors. In set four, they had 7 kills and 8 errors.
Similarly, the Tornadoes had 7 kills and 9 errors in set 1, 8 kills and 4 errors in set 3, and 5 kills and 2 errors in set 5.
Game two belonged to anyone. The Lady Panther just delivered when the match needed them most.
26 assists from sophomore setter Sanaa Simmons, 13 assists from junior setter Allanah Drayton-Campbell, and 16 kills from junior outside hitter Shynique Mcgee led to the win for CAU.
The Lady Panther’s struggled defensively, and they had to rely on their offense to carry them most of the game, but the Lady Bobcats dominated on offense and defense. The Lady Panthers had their backs against the wall the entire match and they could not get a comfortable lead in any of the 3 sets.
Many aspects played a role in the loss, according to Mafo, “In the first match we had a lack of focus.” She continued, commenting on the energy of the team, “[The energy] was down. We had a couple of starters and starters in their head overthinking.”
Miscommunication hurt the team as well. The Lady Panthers had to deal with their main starting Libero, freshman Nakalya James, being injured. Coach Mafo added, “I had my second Libero on, and she is very hesitant to take charge and we are going to be working on that.”
Both teams showed a lot of fight in the first two sets with 15 ties total, but the Lady Panthers defense woes showed towards the end of the sets. In fact, both sets ended nearly the same. After Clark scored their 19th point, the Lady Bobcats answered back scoring 8 straight points to take set 1. The Lady Bobcats took set two scoring 7 straight points after the Lady tied the set at 18.
The performances from McGee and Campbell are not to go unnoticed. McGee led CAU with 14 kills in 23 attempts and Campbell played a significant role in Mcgee’s performance with 13 assists.