The Lecanto Panthers volleyball team (14-5) defeated the Weeki Wachee Hornets (12-7) by a 3-1 margin at the Hornets’ Nest on Wednesday night. Following a defeat in three sets the prior evening to the Panthers, Weeki Wachee was looking to even the season series at one apiece. It was not meant to be, though. A hot start would not be enough to outlast Lecanto’s firepower and consistency. While there were times in the first set that it seemed the home team would be able to go the distance, the events that transpired in the opening frame would prove to be a microcosm of the entire evening.
In the initial set, Coach Kelly Werkmeister’s Hornets flew out to a 7-0 lead over the Panthers in the blink of an eye. This was thanks in part to a quartet of fortuitous serves by Senior Courtney McDermott and a pair of scores by Senior Trinity Garrison. But Lecanto would respond – and quickly. The visitors proceeded to score 12 out of the next 17 points to close the gap entirely. While a handful of Weeki Wachee miscues did help to bring Lecanto back into the set, it was also the result of plays by a pair of Panther seniors.
“Mallori Grey did really good on the front row as far as hits,” Lecanto Head Coach Wanda Grey said. “Kayla Negron, our libero, just covering well on the blocks and had all those crazy plays that you probably saw back and forth type thing. I would say those two stood out a lot.”
One of the sequences the Lecanto coach was referring to happened midway through the first period. With the score tightening at 11-10, the teams traded shots back and forth during a lengthy possession. Ultimately, Weeki Wachee’s McDermott would record the block on Grey to extend the home team’s lead to 12-10, but the Panthers showed they were going to make the Hornets work for every score they could muster on Wednesday. The home team would outlast the early Lecanto onslaught to take the opening stanza 25-22.
The two teams would reverse roles in the second with Lecanto looking strong with an early 8-3 lead. Two of these scores came courtesy of Grey while two more came from Sophomore Madison Weedman. Time and again, the sophomore middle hitter tipped the ball over the net for quick scores in between Weeki Wachee defenders. Much like the first set, the score would eventually become knotted at 12 before the team who had gained the early upper hand would regain the lead for good. This period was not without its controversy, however, as a potential scoreboard mishap may have cost the Hornets two points late in the set. Lecanto then scored the final three points en route to a 25-18 victory when Weeki Wachee was called for being out of rotation, Senior Gabrielle Spradley’s serve could not be corralled by the home team, and when Hornets Senior Morgan Maeder’s serve sailed out of bounds.
Set three saw the teams trade shots back and forth and found themselves tied at 11 midway through the period. Then the visitors never looked back, as they scored at a margin of 14-4 through the rest of the set. More kills by Grey, more plays by Weedman, and more miscues by the Green and Black brought the set to a swift 25-15 conclusion. Like the rest of the match, the final period was hotly contested halfway through. This time the score was 14-14 before a slew of serendipitous serves by Panthers Senior Mackenzi Grey helped the visitors open up an insurmountable 21-14 lead late in the contest. Lecanto would go on to win 25-18, winning the match in four sets.
Despite the fast start by the Hornets, Coach Grey seemed pleased with the Panthers’ response and how her squad finished the evening. “We came out slow, but I think overall pulled it through,” Coach Grey said. “Overall, I’m proud of their performance, though. Even though we started out slow, lost that first set, came back, worked hard.”
Weeki Wachee will play their final game of the regular season at home against the Nature Coast Tech Sharks (9-9) on Thursday at 6:30. The Panthers have four more games remaining on their schedule. The next is an away game against the Citrus Hurricanes (8-8) at 7:00 on Thursday.