Blairsville, Georgia- The Union County Panthers Volleyball team hosted the 1/2A Area 8 region tournament. The Panthers needed to win the championship to gain the #1 seed.
The Panthers struggled early, quickly down 6-1. The Panthers then found their rhythm and tied the game at 7 and took their first lead of the set 8-7. The set quickly started going the Panthers way as they started to dominate the Tigers. The Panthers outscored the Tigers 18-4 after taking the 8-7 lead. In set 2, the Panthers started slow and were down 4-2 early. The Panthers again found their rhythm and their domination continued. Junior Kaylee Ashcraft found her groove and took over the set. The Panthers led 18-13 late in the set and never looked back. The Panthers went on to win 25-13. The Panthers beat the Tigers 2-0 in the first round of the tournament.
Early in the 1st set the scoring was very balanced. The Panthers then went on a 6-0 run and forced the Patriots to call a timeout. The Patriots went on a quick run themselves as the Panthers were struggling. The Panthers led 11-6. The momentum then went back and forth to both teams as both teams were going on short runs. The Panthers still led 18-13. The Patriots made things very interesting towards the end and drew within 3 but the Panthers went onto win 25-22 to win the 1st set. In the 2nd set, the Panthers started slow but caught their rhythm quickly. The Panthers went up 10-6 as the Patriots called a timeout. The Panthers went on a quick 4-1 run after the timeout. After going up 17-7, the Panthers never looked back and went on to win 25-16. The Panthers would now host the championship vs Lake Oconee Academy.
Union/Lake Oconee Academy
To begin the 1st set, both teams went back and forth for almost the entire set. Both teams were evenly matched and proved why they were the top 2 teams in the region. The score was 3-3 early on. Senior Morgan Fussell led the Panthers in the first game and was a huge factor in the series. The Titans went on a run to gain momentum and took an early 12-10 lead that forced the Panthers to call a timeout. The Titans came out of the timeout and increased their lead to 14-10. The Panthers stormed back to tie it at 16 and took the lead 17-16. After the Panthers took a 18-16 lead, the Titans called timeout. Coming out of the timeout, the Titans tied it at 18. Then both teams took turns going up 2 points and each team came back to tie it. The Panthers were up 24-23 and won the set after a Titan player tipped the ball before it went out. The Panthers won the 1st set 25-23. The 2nd set was just as close as the 1st set. Both teams went back and forth for most of the set. Early on the Panthers went up 4-1 but the Titans came back and cut the lead to 2, 5-3. The Titans then took a 7-5 lead. The Panthers would then comeback and tie the game at 7 and take a 8-7 lead. The game would then again go back and forth. The Panthers were up 16-13 and the Titans stormed back again to tie it and then took a 18-17 lead. The set was tied 20-20 and the Panthers would go on a 3-0 run and to take a 23-20 lead to get them 2 points away from their second area championship in a row. Things got interesting as the Panthers made 2 mistakes and the Titans cut the lead down to 24-23 but Junior Sofia Swartz got the game point and sealed the victory and the area championship for the Panthers. The Panthers won the 2nd set 25-24 and won their 2nd area championship in a row. The Panthers will now host the 1st round of the state playoffs.