For the first time in six years, the Stone Memorial Lady Panthers volleyball team is region tournament bound, though their path wasn’t easy.
SMHS finished second in Tuesday’s District 8AA volleyball tournament by defeating Upperman in the semifinals 3-2 before falling to Livingston Academy in the championship game 3-1.
“That’s huge for our program,” said SMHS coach Tori Permenter. “Six years is a long time. We don’t want to be satisfied. We have a chance to do something special, and I think we can go to state if we do the little things right.”
The Lady Panthers’ semifinal game started at 6:30 p.m. and championship game wrapped up at 10:19 p.m. for almost four consecutive hours of volleyball.
Semifinal vs. Upperman
Tuesday’s semifinal matchup featured the No. 2-seeded Lady Panthers against the traditional power No. 3 Upperman, who almost pulled off the incredible upset.
Stone Memorial swept each regular season matchup against the Lady Bees, but that didn’t matter Tuesday as Upperman took a 2-1 set lead over the Lady Panthers, forcing a furious comeback to keep their season alive and advance to the district championship.
A sluggish start for Stone Memorial in the first set was ultimately erased as SMHS took the set 25-21.
Upperman was able to figure it out in the next two sets, winning the second set 25-23 and third 25-20. Stone Memorial held a 23-22 lead in the second set before falling.
In an elimination set with their season on the line, Stone Memorial rose to the challenge to win the fourth set 25-18, forcing a fifth set in which SMHS took the 15-9 victory.
The win set up a showdown between the No. 2 Lady Panthers and overall No. 1 Livingston Academy approximately 30 minutes after the semifinal match ended.
Following a quick break between games, the Lady Panthers took the court in a district championship game for the first time since 2013 as they faced Livingston Academy.
The Wildcats looked poised to sweep the contest as they won the first set 25-21 and jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the second.
From there, the Lady Panthers rallied to tie the contest at 10 points each. Tessa Miller broke through, scoring via kill to put SMHS ahead 11-10. After the tie, SMHS outscored LA 15-6 in the set to win 25-16.
The third set would be the most competitive set of the entire tournament. After the Lady Panthers jumped to a 16-9 lead, Livingston Academy rallied to tie the contest at 21.
From there, the teams traded blows until LA eventually won the set 30-28, taking a 2-1 lead over SMHS.
Livingston Academy held on in the fourth set to win 25-18 and take the district championship crown.
“That was tough,” said Permenter. “I know the girls were pretty tired. There were a lot of little things we didn’t do right. But the important thing is we advanced and we’re alive still. I hope to see them in the region championship. If we play our best volleyball, and they (Livingston) play their best volleyball, we’ll see each other again.”
For Stone Memorial, Sydney Diem, Kara Davis and Tessa Miller were named all-district. Miller, Diem and Brooke Galan were named all-tournament, while Ella Gann was named to the all-freshman team.
Stone Memorial will play at Red Bank in the Region 4AA semifinal on Tuesday, Oct. 15.