Lady Panthers Looking For Playoff Return
By Chris Boothe
OAKWOOD – Last season the Oakwood Lady Panthers caught fire late, and made a mad push into the playoffs. There, they took three sets off of Goodrich in the Bi-District round before falling to perennial powerhouse North Zulch in the Area Championship. A year later, the Lady Mustangs are looking to build on that experience and push deeper in 2016.
The Lady Panthers finished second in 21-1A behind district champion Trinidad, and were led by a trio of superb players in Rachel Rogers, Jasmine Wells, and Ashlyn Duck. Rogers was named 21-1A Defensive MVP as the young Lady Panther was able to stand out among her competition and help lead Oakwood through district play.
Wells, 21-1A Hitter MVP, was an offensive force. By far the most dangerous hitter any given night, Wells punished opposing teams in route to a playoff appearance. As for Duck, she was Setter MVP, as Duck was able to spread the ball better than anyone in the district and set up the Lady Panthers offensive attack.
Oakwood featured three more players that earned 1st Team All-District honors (Faith Lipsey, Morgan Mulson, Tori Neel), and two 2nd Team All-District athletes (Cherish Sherman, Sydnei Wells).
It was that depth that led to a strong season for the Lady Panthers, and it will be similar depth that is looked upon if the Lady Panthers hope to make a return trip to the playoffs this season. With several returning starters, the Lady Panthers have the pieces in place for another run, add in the irreplaceable playoff experience, and there are the ingredients for what could be a special season in Oakwood.
The Lady Panthers schedule features several tough tournaments and non-district games to prepare Oakwood for the rigours of district play. After opening the season against Fruitvale, the Lady Panthers will participate in Anderson County rival’s and 3A power Westwood’s tournament. After a showdown against former power Frankston, the Lady Panthers will play in another highly competitive tournament, this time in Groveton.
With non-district tilts against Westwood and Rice, the Lady Panthers looked to be extremely battle tested for district play.
There the Lady Panthers will have to deal with a resurgent Cayuga squad, as well as a Trinidad team that took the district crown a year ago. Cross Roads and Kerens also hope to be in the playoff mix again this year, likely giving Oakwood a couple of tough games along the way to the playoffs.
Overall, the Lady Panthers have a solid team in place and will be prepared for district action. On paper, Oakwood looks to not only be a playoff contender in 2016, but a district title contender, and possibly Regional Tournament contender.