Published: Oct 05, 2011 04:18 PM
Modified: Oct 05, 2011 04:31 PM
APEX - Bonnie O'Connor called her team's season "a roller coaster."
But luckily for the Panther Creek volleyball team, that roller coaster is on the upward swing as it nears the end of its season.
Through their first 11 games, the Catamounts were just 3-8. But thanks to a recent hot streak, which includes 3-0 wins against Fuquay-Varina and Holly Springs -- two teams in which the Catamounts are jostling for playoff seeding -- Panther Creek is in position for postseason contention as well.
The Catamounts improved to 7-9 with a 3-0 (25-18, 25-18, 25-15) defeat of Tri-Nine Conference foe Middle Creek on Tuesday.
"There's been some real highs where I'm like, 'I love this team, they're so awesome!' and some real lows where drama occurs and we're trying to recover from that," O'Connor said. "But it's good that they're not giving up and they're still fighting for every point and every spot."
Panther Creek sits in fifth place of the Tri-Nine standings at 7-6 in league play, one game above Fuquay and just two games back of third-place Holly Springs.
"It's really the mental part of the game that's starting to come around," O'Connor said. "They've been strong all along, but if you get down it's really hard for them to believe they can win. So I like the hot streak."
Panther Creek's strong senior class came through against Middle Creek (4-11, 2-10) in a number of ways.
Senior Emily Hendricks had a game-high 10 kills, while classmate Jasmine Aguinaldo had a game-high six blocks. Lauren Webb, filling in somewhat for injured setter Andi Dean, did most of the passing and also notched five aces.
But O'Connor also noted the emergence of underclassmen help, with sophomore Katherine Kruse's seven kills, and middle blocker Lauren Tuttle's three kills and one block.
"It's good to see everyone pulling together," Webb said. "When we're all on, it works really well."
Webb said that in the season's tough stages, the team lacked the intensity and energy. But before the year got too far along, the Catamounts had an awakening.
"A lot of us realized we only have a few games to go," Webb said.
Panther Creek was third in the Tri-Nine last year and earned its first-ever home playoff game. That goal is back in focus thanks to the late-year gelling and win streak.
"We've taken a really big responsibility with keeping everyone together," Webb said of the seniors. "We kind of lost sight of that in the beginning of our season. But hopefully we're back on track for that,"
Middle Creek junior Ashley Battle, ranked No. 1 in the state by MaxPreps.com for blocks (though the list is unofficial, as teams must enter their stats to be in the rankings), had four in the contest. She added four kills and five assists. Mustangs freshman Katie McCullough had four kills.