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Sunday, Sep 24, 2017
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South Florida splits opening matches

AVON PARK - Even though the South Florida Community College Panthers are just two matches into their season, the team has already had some ups and downs. The high point was Friday's sweep of Lake-Sumter Community College, while the low point was Saturday's loss to Cerritos College. "For some reason the chemistry of the team wasn't there," said Panthers head coach Kimberly Crawford. "It was just one of those nights where it didn't happen the way we thought it would." Cerritos College made the trip from California to do some sightseeing in Florida and the teams played a scrimmage on Thursday and it was a back-and-forth affair. That wasn't the case on Saturday, as the Falcons came away with a 25-22, 25-20, 25-16 victory. "We had a complete 180," said SFCC assistant coach Charlotte Bauder. "We went from kicking butt to forgetting basic fundamentals like passing."
The opening game of the match went back-and-forth with Cerritos taking a one- or two-point lead and the Panthers coming back to tie the score. South Florida trailed 20-19 after a kill by Shelby Flint, but the Falcons went on a 4-1 run and were able to come away with the win. The second game was similar to the first, with Cerritos jumping out in front and South Florida chipping away at the lead, only to see a late 5-1 run by the Falcons put the game away. The Falcons didn't wait quite so long in the third game to pull away, grabbing a 14-9 lead and wrapping up the match in three games. "They did some quick shoots throughout the night," Crawford said. "And our blocking wasn't there." Leah Mitchell led the Panthers with seven kills and three blocks, Avon Park graduate Melissa Tullo had 19 digs and Sebring graduate Ricki Albritton had 22 assists. "We were prepared," Crawford said. "It just didn't turn out the way I thought it would." The match with Lake-Sumter was much more to the Panthers' liking, as South Florida started out strong and notched a 25-16, 25-15, 26-24 victory over the Lakers. Mitchell had 16 kills in the match, Kayla Bailey had eight and Kalee Schlabach and Flint had five each. Albritton had 33 assists in the winning effort, while Flint had 15 digs, Tullo had 13 and Desiree Leedy added 10. Schlabach had a team-high two aces in the match. South Florida (1-1) will begin an extended period away from home, beginning with Tuesday's match at Clearwater Christian College. The Panthers will play their next five matches on the road, as well as participate in the Palm Beach Community College tournament, before returning home to face Hillsborough Community College on Sept. 21. Clearwater Christian has won the National Christian College Athletic Association Division II volleyball championship four years in a row.

Allen Moody can be reached at 863-386-5841 or amoody@highlandstoday.com.

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