After the undefeated St. Mary’s women’s volleyball team posted their third win of the young regular season by coasting to a 15-7, 15-3, 15-3 victory over the Contra Costa Christian Cougars, first year St. Mary’s head volleyball coach Herman Shum commented that, “something we really work on is to take the opponent out of the game.” One could argue that Shum’s statement contained just a tinge of truth in it, for the Cougars played as though they were never in the game to begin with.
Jazmin Pratt sparked the Panther riot by serving up nine consecutive points to open up the contest. While the Cougars did fight back to narrow the gap to within 10-7, Pratt nullified any further damage with a spike and an ace to push the Panther lead to 12-7. Shum then brought in the taller Ronice Sweet to substitute for Karen Sommers in anticipation of a play at the net. Sweet’s height was not needed, however, as the Panthers served their way to the final three points and a first set victory.
Setter Akilah Wilhite assumed serving duties from Pratt to start the second set, and the carnage continued: easy serves by St. Mary’s that were rarely returned successfully. Wilhite dished out a total of six aces in the game, second only to Pratt’s 11. The Panthers jumped out to a 9-1 lead behind the serves of Wilhite and Pratt and wrapped up its second set with a 15-3 win.
A scary fact is that the Panthers actually got stronger as the game progressed, as anyone who witnessed the third set will attest to. Shum told his squad during the interval that the third set is “where you can afford to try things.” But the only thing the Panthers tried was the same thing they did all game long: serve, ace, score. This time, St. Mary’s rattled off an unbelievable 13 consecutive points to start the set. A timeout by Contra Costa after the Panthers had jumped to an 8-0 lead managed to give them a sideout and possession of the serve. This just delayed the inevitable, as St. Mary’s immediately regained possession of the serve and applied the finishing touches for a 15-3 win.
Leading the attack was Pratt, who racked up 30 serve attempts, accounting for more than half of the team total of 58. Eleven of Pratt’s 30 attempts translated into aces. Even more impressive is the fact that Pratt committed just one error. Such a statistic is a testament not only to the focus displayed by the hustling Panthers but the confusion and chaos that reigned on the Cougar side of the net.
Not to be outdone by their teammate, Ronice Sweet led the Panthers with nine spikes, followed closely by the eight posted by Nisha Chada and Elisabeth Carr. Carr also led the Panthers in kills, with five, and Sweet used her imposing height to record two solo blocks. The hustle department featured Suzanne Vendit and Marisa Diaz as major players. Both recorded two digs on defense, complementing Chada’s team high total of three.
Asked after the game what his expectations were for his squad, Shum didn’t hesitate. “Definitely playoffs... I’m bringing in a new system. The girls are excited and working hard.” If their game against the Cougars is any indication of what lies ahead, the St. Mary’s Panthers will be an exciting team to watch.
The Panthers (3-0, 0-0) will kick off league play with a home contest against the El Cerrito Gauchos at 5:30 pm on Tuesday, September 12th.