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Driving home point

Fri., Sept. 23, 2011, midnight

Young Mead team plays with veteran savvy in win

Mead’s young volleyball team played like veterans during a Greater Spokane League volleyball victory at district rival and defending league champion Mt. Spokane.

That’s because, despite their youth, they are.

There’s nary a senior on the varsity roster, but eight of the Panthers’ 11 juniors (with a sophomore rounding out the roster) gained valuable varsity experience last season.

And Thursday night they made a statement in a gym packed with raucous fans by defeating the Wildcats (2-1 GSL) 25-20, 25-23 and 25-18.

Did coach Judy Kight envision a sweep over a team that beat the Panthers (3-0) in five games a year ago?

She circumvented the question, saying, “I’m so pleased with them, I really am. That’s a very good team. I’m more than pleased. That felt good.”

In all three games, the Panthers jumped out to comfortable leads. They led 19-9 in game one, 11-5 in game two and 12-5 in game three, then weathered comebacks.

The Wildcats closed to within four points in the first game, trailed 24-23 in game two and 19-17 in game three.

“We have to find a way to start quicker,” first-year coach Dave Whitehead said. He blamed it on poor serving in the first two games. “You can’t do that against a good team like Mead. They are a great team.”

Indeed, the Panthers showed little weakness in any phase of the game, serving, back-row defense and power at the net.

Outside hitter Hannah Zalopany jump-started the Panthers with six first-game kills, one off a block. Then the Panthers came at their foe in waves as different players had their moments to shine. They offset a yeoman effort by Mt. Spokane junior Kennadie Clute, who displayed power of her own.

Zalopany said that Mead was driven after last year’s loss.

“We’ve been working hard since that day,” said Zalopany, who led the team in kills, aces, digs and blocks. “I just thought we need to come out strong and play with high energy.”

“It’s a very, very strong group,” Kight said, “one of the best teams I’ve had.”

Central Valley 3, University 2: In a marathon match befitting league rivals, the Bears (2-1) outlasted the host Titans 25-19, 24-26, 27-25, 21-25, 15-13. Taylor Butters had 19 kills and Delaney Fisher 18 digs for the Bears. Kayleigh Valley paced U-Hi (1-2) with 16 kills and Jessie Barth had 31 digs.

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