Lady Panthers advance to regionals after Cinderella district run

By Ken Lay

Oak Ridge — A Cinderella story came up a little short of a fairy tale ending for Powell High School’s volleyball team Thursday night. But the Lady Panthers still have at least one chapter remaining to be written, maybe more.

Time will tell as they advance to the Region 2-3A Tournament Tuesday

Powell made a surprise appearance in the District 3-3A Tournament Championship match and dropped a three-set match to top-seeded Clinton, 25-11, 25-13, 25-12 at Wildcat Arena.

The loss ended a district tournament run for Powell (11-14) that saw the sixth-seeded Panthers upset third-seeded Karns in four sets in the quarterfinals and oust No. 2 seed and tournament host Oak Ridge in five sets in a doubleheader Wednesday night.

Even in defeat, Lady Panthers coach Abigail Payne couldn’t have been prouder of her team’s performance.

“I’ve been working with them on their mental toughness all year and you can see that it paid off,” Payne said. “If you look at where we were early in the season, we’ve grown up a lot this year, and you saw it here tonight.

“We’ve really grown up and I’m so proud of the girls.”

Powell didn’t quite have enough to take down the top-seeded Lady Dragons, who breezed through the district’s regular-season schedule, dropping just one set to Halls in the regular-season league finale for both teams.

Payne said she felt like Wednesday’s elimination doubleheader really took a toll on her young squad. Powell defeated the Lady Beavers 25-21, 16-25, 25-19, 25-23, and followed that up with a 25-22, 12-25, 25-23, 22-25, 15-9, to reach the championship match.

“We had a big night last night and I really think that showed tonight,” Payne said. “But we didn’t quit tonight.

“We have a really young team and I’m really, really proud.”

Against Karns, Genevive Kwak, an all-tournament standout, posted 12 kills, five aces, two blocks and eight digs. Emalee Schultz chipped in with 11 assists, five digs and one block.

Against Oak Ridge, Kwak came up with 13 kills. Ryanna Comer added six kills and London Smith finished with five kills for Powell, which certainly impressed Lady Dragons coach Lorri Johnson.

“They played really hard. They played really hard against us and they played great last night against Oak Ridge,” Johnson said. “I talked with (Payne) earlier. We talked about the logistics for the region (tournament) and I told her to be sure that her team came in here wearing crowns because they were definitely Cinderellas.”

Powell and the Lady Dragons both advance to Tuesday’s Region 2-3A Tournament at Clinton. Semifinal matches begin at 5 p.m. Semifinal winners advance to the championship match at 6:30 and also qualify for Thursday’s state sectional.

Clinton will face District 4 runner-up Hardin Valley Academy and Powell will play Maryville, which won the District 4-3A Championship.