Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — Late in the first set of their season-opener on Tuesday, Southeastern’s Audrey Scott had a two-play sequence that seemed to expel the team’s pre-game jitters.
With the score tied at 19-19, Scott sent a ball screaming to the floor to give her team a lead before recording a block moments later, making it a 21-19 ballgame.
And, frankly, from that point on, it was smooth sailing for the Panthers.
Behind strong performances from Scott, Hannah Lougheed, Lexie Lockwood, Alexis Bailes, Olivia Higley and a host of others, Southeastern (1-0) made quick work of visiting Ironton by a 25-19, 25-15, 25-10 final.
It was Southeastern coach Lori Koker’s first win as a Panther.
“Our defense has been working so hard on covering each other and just the X’s and O’s,” Koker said. “I think that was the key. And we built momentum. You could see that tonight.”
After Scott provided a spark in the first set, she continued to frustrate Ironton.
Standing tall at the net, she ended the night with seven kills, three blocks and two aces.
“Audrey has worked really hard and we were fortunate to start in June, so we were able to get through all of our phases,” Koker said. “She’s continued to stay after it. We went with a two-setter system and she’s wanted to work with each one of them. She’s worked extremely hard. So we’re really pleased with her and excited for her to have the game she did tonight.”
Meanwhile, Southeastern’s defensive leader Lexie Lockwood did what she does best. The junior captain seemed to be everywhere, chasing down hits and providing security in the back.
“She’s one of those players who has a green light. You have your certain places where you’re supposed to be, but if Lexie can get to the ball, Lexie gets it,” Koker said. “She’s the only one that doesn’t have to go by the book.”
Tale of the tape
Bailes gave the Panthers the first lead of the night before the two teams jockeyed for position throughout the first set. At one point, Ironton (0-1) had a 10-7 lead before SE went on a 4-0 run to go ahead 11-10.
Later, thanks to Scott and Bailes’ efforts, the Panthers ended the set on a 6-0 run to win 25-19.
From there, it was all Southeastern.
From the service line, Scott gave the Panthers a 4-0 lead out of the gate before Lougheed later made it 8-3 with a kill from the right side of the net. Southeastern then built leads of 16-8 and 23-10 before taking a 2-0 match advantage with a 25-15 victory.
In the third, the Panthers jumped out to a 6-0 lead before Higley tallied an ace to make it 13-4. Later, up 17-7, Lockwood served two consecutive aces as the Panthers cruised to a 25-10 win.
Lougheed led the team offensively with 14 kills alongside six assists and 12 digs. Lockwood finished with 14 digs, Scott had seven kills and three blocks, Bailes totaled five kills and six blocks, and Higley added 24 assists and 12 digs.
“I feel like the girls are undeniable working hard and they’re so, so coachable,” Koker said. “We made a lot of adjustments in that match. We switched a lot of people around. So for them to buy into it, you hope you can build from this and get better.”
What’s on tap
The Panthers will now turn their attention towards New Hope Christian Academy, where they’ll travel to play on Thursday.
While Southeastern is off to a great start, there’s still many things to work on.
“We need to work on communication when we do switch, so we know exactly where someone is at,” she said. “We don’t want those mishaps. We could also have a faster-paced offense. But to start like we did, I’m happy with it.”