The Saratoga Sun -

Lady Panthers drop to No. 3, still set for regionals


Doug Radunich

Haley Soles backs up Nikki Pacheco in Saturday’s game against Southeast.

The Lady Panthers didn’t let a double-loss last weekend get them down, and instead looked ahead to regionals as a third-place ranked team within their conference.

After Saturday’s loss against Southeast (28-26, 18-25, 25-22, 21-25, 5-15) and Friday’s lost against Burns (19-25, 16-25, 16-25), Saratoga ended up a respectable third place in the 2A southwest conference. Their record currently stands at 16-10 overall, and 5-3 for conference.

Coach Shayley Love said that in order to make it to state the girls have to place in the Top 4 at regionals.

“Our first round is against Big Horn, and to prepare for regionals our girls need to focus on their game and their skills,” she said. “We are going to work on sharpening our skills this week so we are ready to go. I’m not nervous to play anyone, and we know we can compete with everyone that will be there. We know Wright has been ranked No. 1 all year, but they are on the other side of the bracket.”

Love said she is excited to see who will stand out at regionals, and noticed that Friday’s loss brought out a harder play from her girls the following day. Even with the resulting loss, Love said her girls played a better overall game Saturday.

“I don’t think anyone can be underestimated, and each team has earned their right to play there so it will be great competition,” she said. “I was proud of the girls for playing competitive and never giving up. After our loss to Burns they refocused and played much better on Saturday. Our girls need to work on their serving, and I think that was the No. 1 thing that contributed to our loss.”

Love said that because Southeast beat them in three games last month, it was quite an event to go to five games with them. Saturday’s game also featured back-and-forth win-loss with the two teams, creating suspense as to who would pull through and win it all in the end.

“This time our girls were focused and ready to play, and playing someone five sets means you are pretty comparable in talent usually,” she said. “I feel we are pretty evenly-matched with them. The girls had a lot of fire, and it was fun to see them get so excited about great plays.”

The team’s seniors also got special recognition from Love, with Saturday’s game being “senior night” for Heather Oxford, Shelby McGuire and Nikki Pacheco. The girls were presented with flowers and balloons, and stood on the court with their families in honor of their hard work and final year with the team.

“The seniors really pulled through and led their team, and I loved seeing them playing their final game together on their home court,” Love said. “It is always emotional when we have senior night, but these girls have had so much support from their parents over their high school career and it was great to see them all together. Overall I felt we played very well together. We just had a couple of moments that we let them get us down.”

Love gave a special shout-out to Oxford, whom she said was also little under the weather during both games.

“Heather Oxford has been playing so well for us this season, and I am so proud of how she pushed through everything,” Love said. “She played sick all weekend but still put up great numbers, and Nikki Pacheco and Shelby McGuire also did some really great things for us to help keep the game alive. I am just excited for our girls to get there and play, and I just want to see them walk on the floor with confidence and play to their fullest potential. I want them to leave nothing behind and be proud of how they performed, and anything is possible at this point.”

With home games all wrapped up, Love expressed gratitude for the local crowds who came out game after game.

“The crowd has been awesome this season,” she said. “Each year we get more and more people coming out to watch our girls. It is exciting to see the support for them.”

Regionals takes place this Friday and Saturday in Wright.

Varsity Scores

Vs. Burns- 10/18/13

19-25, 16-25, 16-25, Loss

Shelby McGuire: served 12 for 13, 1 kill, 7 assists, 6 digs

Veronica Lincoln: served 9 for 10, 2 aces, 8 digs

Heather Oxford: served 4 for 5, 9 kills, 1 block, 11 digs

Mati Love: served 7 for 8, 3 kills, 8 assists, 9 digs

Nikki Pacheco: served 7 for 9, 1 block, 6 digs

Haley Soles: served 8 for 8, 6 kills, 1 block, 11 digs

Vs. Southeast- 10/19/13

28-26, 18-25, 25-22, 21-25, 5-15, Loss

Shelby McGuire: served 16 for 19, 1 ace, 10 kills, 28 assists, 25 digs

Veronica Lincoln: served 11 for 13, 1 ace, 17 digs

Heather Oxford: served 12 for 13, 1 ace, 13 kills, 6 blocks, 40 digs

Kelsie Samson: 2 kills, 2 blocks, 3 digs

Mati Love: served 19 for 20, 7 kills, 1 block, 15 assists, 11 digs

Justine Fourman: 6 kills, 8 blocks, 3 digs

Haley Soles: served 10 for 11, 2 kills, 22 digs


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