Unbeaten no more.
The Gananda Blue Panthers, looking relaxed and confident with their 11-0 record, met the irresistible force Friday night, succumbing in five games to Lyons, 3-2 (26-22, 22-26, 18-25, 25-20 and 21-25) in a Wayne County volleyball brouhaha.
Lyons had a 7-2 lead in the first game and maintained a positive margin until the score was 17-14. That's when senior middle hitter Heather Prinsen took the ball in service, and the Panthers reeled off five straight points to take their first lead of the night, 19-17. The teams tied at 21, 22, 23 and 24, but in the end, Gananda pulled out a 26-24 win on a Jessie Carder kill.
The loss had to hurt Lyons, which fell back as Gananda opened the second game with a 12-4 lead, the last four points on four straight kills by Jenni Stearns, who finished the night with 24.
But the night turned around right then. Lyons dug in and began to chip away at the Panther lead, with senior Hannah Lester getting some big points for the Lions, who worked back slowly until both teams had 23. From there on, behind Abby Shields' service, the Lions took their first lead, 24-26, and lunged to the finish with a 26-24 win.
That second game changed the mental set for Lyons, which took the lead at 15-14 and never looked back in the third game. Shields was the big factor, dominating play with three kills in the last six Lyons points.
With a 2-1 margin now, it was Lyons that looked relaxed and ready to call it a night, but Gananda came back in a very close game. The two teams were no more than three points apart until Gananda pushed ahead, 18-14. Lyons kept it close, but Stearns controlled this game, and the Lions made too many mistakes.
In the final game, it was obvious that the second Gananda win had taken a lot out of the Panthers. Shields stepped in to take control of the game and Lyons broke out to a 10-4 lead, held that to 17-14, and 22-16. Gananda made a brief flurry of points and suddenly it was 22-21, but Javana Salone's kill made it 24-21, and a ball that went into the net finished the Gananda night. Lyons left the floor with an 11-2 record and a lot of smiles.
"Our first set is always our hardest," said Lyons coach Samantha Converse. "I don't know whether it's the tension or what. We're always slow-starting. But most of these girls have been together for awhile and we started playing our game. We do much better when we pick up the intensity."
Shields led Lyons with 21 kills, 11 digs and three blocked shots. Hannah Lester had 10 kills and 12 digs, and Taylor DiSanto led the team with 31 assists. Salone had five kills and 21 digs.
Page 2 of 2 - Gananda coach Joan DiRisio asked if it were a good thing or a bad thing – having an unbeaten string snapped?
"Nobody ever wants to be beaten," she said. "But at some point in the season, it's good to be challenged, and sometimes that ends up with a big win, or a loss — but you learn something from it.
"Coming into this game, we really needed to have consistency in our energy. We lost some of that in the first two sets, and it took us awhile to get that back. We could have easily given up after it was 2-1, but we battled back in the fourth and fifth sets."
Peyton Wyjad led Gananda with 37 assists and 33 digs, Stearns added 24 digs to her 24 kills, and Jessie Carder had 20 kills and 19 digs.