After going more than a month without losing a match, Horseshoe Bend found itself on the wrong end of the scoreboard Wednesday night in Eclectic. The Generals had their 23-game winning streak snapped by Elmore County as the Panthers jumped out to a quick start and never looked back, winning 25-17, 25-16, 25-18.
Horseshoe Bend (27-5) fell behind by as many as 13 points in the first set but fought back to cut the deficit to six points on a kill from Jahia Jennings. The Generals just ran out of time to fall behind by a set and they never recovered.
“I told the girls I am not really disappointed because we played a team that is as equally as good as us, if not a little bit better,” HBS coach Julie Turner said. “Sometimes you get a little bit complacent but seeing them fight after getting down like 10-1 in that first game, that’s a plus.”
Elmore County (14-8) got big nights from several hitters. Mirriam Foster led the way, recording nine of her game-high 17 kills in the first set.
Turner gave credit to Elmore County for playing much better than the first time the two teams season and she wanted this match to show her players you cannot afford an off night against a good team.
“I think it was a little bit of both,” Turner said. “We were definitely off but they were really, really on. And it was senior night for them and there was some extra excitement so it was a big game for them. They’re a good team.”
After dropping the second set, the Generals appeared to have figured some things out and took a 7-2 lead after two aces from Jennings and a kill by Ashley Clanton. However, a service error gave the ball back to the Panthers and back-to-back aces from Kelley Green started a 7-0 run by Elmore County to retake the lead for good.
“I told them if we could start passing, we could put our offense in play,” Turner said. “It’s still our serve receive. That has been our weakness so it gives us something to continue to focus on in the next couple of practices gearing up for area and regionals.”
Jennings led the Generals with four kills and two blocks while Caly Carlisle also added a pair of blocks. Horseshoe Bend recorded only 10 kills as a team, its lowest three-set total since the winning streak started, and could not find an answer for Elmore County’s big hitters but Turner said that could be a blessing in disguise.
“This gives us an opportunity to look at some good hitters,” Turner said. “We have regionals coming up in a couple of weeks and we’re going to see a lot of hitting. We haven’t been seeing that powerful hitting so seeing that is only going to make us better and prepare us for regionals.”
With the winning streak over, Horseshoe Bend can put all of its attention on the postseason. The Generals have already clinched the right to host the Class 2A Area 9 tournament and will continue to search for ways to improve before the postseason. Turner admitted now the streak is finished, she can look back on it as a great experience.
“I think the girls have had a lot of pressure on them so I think this will relieve it a little bit,” Turner said. “It was a great streak and our girls have worked hard all season. We didn’t realize what we were facing for a while but of course, any time you can win 23 ballgames in a row, that’s a blessing.”