It is an every year occurrence that Fayette’s volleyball teams are among the state’s best. Tuesday night’s battle between Starr’s Mill and McIntosh was a perfect example, the Panthers winning a thriller in three sets to force a three-way tie at the top of the sub-area.
“This was a big win for us,” said Starr’s Mill coach Walt Ellison. “Coach (Wendy) Mabon over at McIntosh does an incredible job. I think it’s the first time we have beaten them in about six years or so.”
The Panthers took the first set 25-21, the Chiefs grabbed set two 25-13, and Starr’s Mill rallied to take the decisive set 25-20. The win creates a three-way tie atop the sub-area between Starr’s Mill, McIntosh, and Northgate. The Panthers win the tiebreaker, setting up a battle with Ola for the region’s top seed on Tuesday. McIntosh will play for the three seed against Union Grove.
Starr’s Mill surged ahead by a wide margin in the first set, capitalizing on a number of unforced errors from the Chiefs. Down by a 21-12 margin, McIntosh sharpened up to pull within three late in the set. The Panthers regrouped and took it 25-21.
Set two was all Chiefs as they raced out to an 11-2 advantage, en route to a 25-13 win.
The deciding set was a brilliant back-and-forth battle. McIntosh held the lead early before the Panthers battled back. The lead kept switching hands until Starr’s Mill took control late, pushing out in front with a 25-20 victory.
Alli Jones led the Panthers with 15 kills. Dani Simonsen picked up five service aces. Setters Emily Schafhauser and Dana Whitis each tallied 12 assists. Alyssa Sack and Grace Mrosek were a force at the net, adding four kills a piece.
McIntosh was paced by Caroline Cameron with seven kills, two aces, and 16 digs. Nell Copeland notched 11 assists and 12 digs. Libero Lianna Ortiz racked up 17 digs and one ace.
Starr’s Mill and Whitewater’s rain-delayed softball showdown was well worth the wait. Rescheduled for an earlier date, the Panthers pulled out a wild, walk-off, 5-4 win over the Wildcats Wednesday evening.
“I guess we finally decided to play in the seventh,” said Starr’s Mill Coach Mark Williamson. “Give it to Whitewater, they played well the whole game.”
With their backs against the wall, the Panthers kept responding, erasing a deficit in both the bottom of the sixth and the seventh.
“They didn’t quit. They stayed in it,” praised Williamson. “We’ve been preaching that all year, and hopefully it’s paying off.”
Lefty Alysen Febrey was her usual dominant self on the mound for the Panthers, pitching the full seven innings and giving up three earned runs to an excellent offensive team.
“She’s going to keep us in any games,” said Williamson. “If we cut down on walks and errors, we’ll be fine.”
Starr’s Mill started the scoring with a pair of runs in the first. Kristen Simpson and Febrey drew walks before Shelby Daniel singled to load the bases. Laura Sellers showed patience at the plate, earning a free pass to notch a run. Jordan Childress was heads-up on the bases, racing home on a pitch in the dirt for a 2-0 lead.
Whitewater responded with three unanswered runs. They got on the board in the second with a Joleigh Tye RBI single. In the third, Sarah Middleton tied the game, scoring Katelyn Perry. Middleton struck again in the fifth, smoking a solo shot to straightaway centerfield to give her Cats a 3-2 lead.
Whitewater got a key pitching performance from Nicole Brown, who came on in relief and tossed four innings, allowing just one run.
Starr’s Mill’s bats woke back up in the bottom of the sixth. Sellers led off with a single and moved to third on a bunt by Kate Ashmore. Sellers raced home on a throw in the dirt to tie the game 3-3.
Angela Heimback stole the lead back for the Cats, crushing a solo home run to centerfield in the top of the seventh.
Down to their final three outs, the Panthers stayed cool. Simpson led off with an infield single, coming around to score on a Shelby Daniel double. Daniel kept moving, stealing third base and racing home for the winning run on a high throw into the outfield.