Volleyball: Panthers shock West top-seed Covenant to reach USA South semifinals

Volleyball: Panthers shock West top-seed Covenant to reach USA South semifinals

LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN, Ga. - The LaGrange volleyball team made program history Tuesday in the opening rounds of the USA South Tournament.

Playing in their first ever USA South tournament, the Panthers swept Huntingdon 3-0 and then upset host Covenant 3-1 to reach the semifinals. Covenant came into the match as the top seed from the West Division and the defending conference tournament champion.

The Panthers will travel to Danville, Va. on Friday to face Meredith in the first semifinal match. The winner meets the Maryville-Averett winner on Saturday in the championship with an automatic berth to the NCAA Division III tournament on the line.

The Panthers (22-13) ended an 11 match losing streak to the Scots (19-13), including a 3-0 loss on Oct. 12. Covenant took the first set 25-20 but the Panthers came storming back.

The Panthers, who had not won a set during the losing streak, reeled off three straight wins to stun the Scots. LC tied the match with a 25-21 win in the second set.

LaGrange took the pivotal third set 27-25 to go up 2-1 in the match. Trailing 25-24 and facing set point, the Panthers reeled off three straight points. Maggie Ivester tied the set at 25 with a kill. After an attack error by the Scots gave the Panthers the lead, Nachelle Roberts put down a kill to end the set.

The Panthers jumped out to a commanding 13-5 lead in the fourth set. Aided by Covenant miscues, they built a 20-12 lead. The Scots rallied to cut into the deficit to 24-20. But a ball handling error gave the Panthers the set 25-20 and the match.

Samantha James was one of three Panthers with double-doubles. James had a team-high 14 kills and 11 digs. Ivester added 13 kills and 19 digs, while Lauren Sanders had 30 assists and 11 digs. Sterling Ancrum had a team-high 20 digs.

The Panthers took a hard-fought match against Huntingdon, winning 25-21, 26-24, and 25-23. Emily Arnold had a match-high 12 kills, finishing with a .407 attack percentage. Ancrum had a match-high 20 digs.

The 22 wins are the most for the Panthers since the 2004 squad won 26.