The Northwestern Trojans scored the final five points of the decisive fifth set to claim a 15-13 win and defeat the visiting Rock Hill Bearcats 3-2 in a hard-fought Region 3-4A contest Thursday night.
Julia Panas led the Trojans down the stretch in the deciding set. With Rock Hill leading 13-10, Panas scored four straight points to give Northwestern a 14-13 lead. When the Trojans scored the next point the match between crosstown rivals was over.
Panas, who finished with 15 kills on the night, had three kills in her four-point surge.
“This was a big win for our team,” said Northwestern head coach Megan Perry. “We had a great team effort tonight.”
Northwestern won the first set 25-17. With the score tied at 15, the Trojans went on a 7-1 run to take a 22-16 lead. After Rock Hill scored on an Erin Hottle kill, Northwestern scored the final three points to take a 1-0 lead. Annmarie Johnston’s kill was the final point in the first set.
Rock Hill rebounded to take the second set 25-21. Northwestern jumped to a 5-1 lead, but Rock Hill tied it at 6. When Neely Shugart scored on a kill, Rock Hill took a 17-16 lead. A 6-1 Bearcat run made it 23-17, and they closed out the set to even the match at 1.
Northwestern came back to win the third set 25-12. The Trojans jumped to a quick 11-1 lead behind the play of Johnston, Panas, and Nadia White, who finished with nine blocks for the match.
Rock Hill battled and trailed 19-10 but got no closer. Northwestern outscored Rock Hill 6-2 down the stretch with White’s block being the last point of the third set.
Rock Hill rallied again to tie the match with a 25-19 victory in the fourth set. Northwestern led 3-1 early, but Rock Hill tied it at 6 on a kill by Lauren Espinol.
When White scored on a kill for Northwestern, the Trojans led 14-10. But the Bearcats ralliedbehind a pair of kills by Hottle and one by Adele Robinson for an 18-14 lead.
The Bearcats closed out the set with Madison Waldrop scoring on a placement shot for final point to even the count and force the deciding contest.
The score was tied at 3-all and 6-all in the final set before Robinson scored on a serve for a 9-6 Rock Hill lead. The teams traded the next eight points for a 13-10 Rock Hill advantage.
That was when Panas stepped up and led Northwestern to the win.
“This was a big win for our girls, because we have a long losing streak against Rock Hill,” Perry said. “I thought we played much more aggressive tonight, and that was our goal.”
In addition to the play of Johnston, Panas, and White, Northwestern got outstanding play from Kelly Cabaniss, who had 16 digs, and Kaitlyn Lollis, who had 31 assists.
“We played hard all night,” said Rock Hill coach Cindy Elder. “We got down twice in games and came back. I am proud of our overall effort.”
The win improved Northwestern to 3-2 in Region 3-4A play, while the loss dropped the Bearcats to the same mark in the region.
Northwestern travels to Gaffney on Tuesday, while Rock Hill will be at home against Nation Ford.