Surging Lady Panthers top Southside, 3-1

Published 9:14 pm Tuesday, September 20, 2016

PINETOWN — Rachel Lang had three straight aces early in the fourth set. Savannah Slade capped it off with three kills in a row — ending it with a tip just inside the sideline to her left — to earn the Lady Panthers a 3-1 win over rival Southside.

Slade and Lang were the undisputed most valuable players for Northside. The Lady Panthers overwhelmed the visiting Lady Seahawks in the first two sets before conceding a hard-fought third set.

“Savannah came. You go to what’s working,” Northside coach Michelle Leathers said. “She was hyped up all day. She came out and she delivered.”

The Lady Panthers cruised to a 25-11 win in the opening set. They carried the momentum over by jumping out to a 10-2 lead in the second set. Southside’s lone points in that stretch both came via errors on Northside’s end.

The Lady Seahawks would muster just six more points en route to a 25-8 loss in the second set. Excellent serving across the board from the likes of Slade, Lang and Emori Smith, as well as strong finishing up front, proved too much.

Southside coach Atyana Starkie gathered her team together and settled them down before the third set. It paid off.

“I told them it’s not over,” Starkie said. “Don’t give in to anybody because we play better than that. What we were lacking was defense. That’s out biggest thing.”

Hannah Paramore’s ace pushed the Lady Seahawks’ lead to 8-4 early on. As hard as they tried to create separation, Slade and the rest of the Lady Panthers were able to keep it close.

Southside, looking for its first set win since Sept. 13 against Kinston, led 20-16 late. However, an error on the serve gave Northside an opening to comeback. That’s just what happened as a kill by Slade tied the set at 20 apiece. Consecutive tips by her and Sydnie Alligood gave the hosts a 22-21 edge — their first of the set.

Southside stayed strong and scored three points to take a 25-23 win in the third set to force a fourth.

“We kind of got rattled a little bit,” Leathers said. “We had to come out and get it to our strong hitters. … Rachel Lang had more than 30 (hits). That’s what you have to do — get it to the strong hitters.

“I told them to keep faith. You’ve got to have faith. That’s me. I’m a spiritual person. If I have faith in you, everything is going to be alright.”

Hannah Paramore sets up a hit for one of her fellow Lady Seahawks. Southside showed tremendous reserve in the way it responded in the third set.

Southside seemed like an entirely different team than what it was in the first two sets, and Northside responded well from its loss in the third set. It made for another exhilarating game that the Lady Panthers won, 25-18.

Lang’s three straight aces helped produce an early 9-3 lead for the hosts. Southside went on a 5-1 run to pull within two points, but wouldn’t close the gap any further. Lang had plenty of kills along the way, leading up to Slade’s decisive effort.

Savannah Slade leaps for one of her patented jumping serves. She was strong both serving and hitting.

The rivalry marked the fourth win in a row for the surging Lady Panthers. Meanwhile, Southside lost its second straight match. The Lady Seahawks are 9-3 on the season, but are in the midst of a bit of a slump.