At various points in the 2021 season, the McDowell Lady Titans volleyball team had to navigate around some tall players up front.
But in the second round of the State 4A Playoffs on Thursday, McDowell came across a unit taller than any it had seen this season.
The fifth-seeded and undefeated Providence Panthers, with their long range at the net, overpowered the Lady Titans, winning 3-0 to advance to Saturday’s third round and ending a solid 2021 campaign for McDowell.
The Panthers hoisted a wall at the net, with one player over 6-feet tall on the outside and four more in the lineup at 5-foot-11.
While early in the match the Lady Titans were able to aggressively get the ball scoring position, over time the size advantage slowed down McDowell’s offense. After that, Providence used its length to get some easy spikes at the net.
Middle blocker Madison Cail, the tallest Lady Panther on the floor at 6-foot, led her team with 14 kills in the match, including five each in the first and third games. Cail, along with outside hitter Gabby LaPata (11 kills) and Ava Pritchett (11 kills) provided most of the firepower.
The first game started out with a 6-6 tie as both squads were finding soft spots defensively. However, Providence tightened up its defense and went on a 12-3 run that swung the opener in their direction and eventually finished off the game by a 25-15 margin.
After the first set, the Lady Panthers didn’t allow McDowell (8-5) the opportunity to regain any momentum. Providence dominated the second, jumping out to a commanding 17-4 advantage and eventually winning 25-17.
The final game of the match started in a similar fashion as the Lady Panthers jumped to an early lead and never were challenged, winning the finale 25-16 to move on the next round.
McDowell, dealing with the size disadvantage in the match, did work hard in Thursday’s season finale, but the team just wasn’t able to string together long enough scoring runs to take any of the three sets.
Outside hitter Jada Cannon finished with 11 kills, seven digs and one service ace. Cannon finished the abbreviated season with 174 kills in 13 matches. Her twin sister, Jessica Cannon, finished the match with six kills and 11 digs.
Lucy Hames recorded 16 assists from the 20 combined kills in the match. Hames, who had one kill herself, also compiled seven digs. Elaina Rampey (9 digs), Katie Baker (12 digs) and Clementine Miller (3 digs) rounded out the rest of the defensive effort.
Even with Thursday’s defeat, McDowell put the wraps on its best season in a decade. The .615 winning percentage by the senior-laden group is the best for the Lady Titans going back to the 2011 squad that went 21-5 and advanced to the third round of the state playoffs. Current head coach Jessica Finley was a senior on that roster 10 years ago. Since then McDowell only compiled winning seasons two other times; in 2013 (11-9) and 2019 (10-9).