AYER – The Ayer-Shirley Regional girls’ volleyball team wrapped up its 2021 fall campaign on Tuesday evening in a disappointing fashion.
The host Panthers let a 2-0 lead slip away as visiting Main South rallied to win the final three sets to secure a 3-2 victory.
The guest Cougars finish their season with a 7-11 overall record while the Panthers wrap up the campaign at 2-16.
“This one stings. It’s definitely a deep cut, especially for our seniors since it was their last game. Main South went out and got it. They took it from us and we didn’t step up to the challenge as much as we have in the past,” said Ayer-Shirley head coach Ally Fillebrown. “This is a Main South team we’ve never played against before so we didn’t know anything about them coming into this one.”
The Panthers picked up victories in the first two sets against the visiting Cougars as Ayer-Shirley claimed a 26-24 win in the first set before following it up with a 25-21 triumph in the second set. The Panthers attack was anchored by the strong play of Alicia Towne, Kaylin Magno, Maddie Davis and Willow West during those first two sets.
“We got the early lead but then we become stagnant and that ended up hurting us,” said Fillebrown. “Give them credit, they didn’t back down. They battled us and refused to quit.”
Main South wasn’t ready to pack things up and head towards the bus just yet as they refused to go quietly. The Cougars battled in the third set and rallied to pick up a 25-22 win.
The fourth set was more of the same as Main South once again proved to be pesky. The Cougars got off to a fast start and never looked back, taking a 25-14 win to tie the match at two sets apiece and force a deciding fifth set.
In the fifth set, the Panthers jumped to an early 7-3 lead. The run was highlighted by some strong service behind the line from Bella Russell.
Main South hung tough as it scored six of the next eight points to tie the score at 9-9.
It appeared Ayer-Shirley was ready to put the match away over the next few minutes as it rallied with four straight points thanks to a trio of unforced errors by the Cougars front line. However, the guests answered with three straight points to pull within 13-12.
The Panthers pushed Main South to the brink as it scored the next point to set up match point but the Cougars refused to lose as they responded with four straight points to seek out a 16-14 win and secure the match.
“The girls were hanging their head after the loss but I told them to keep their heads up. Our seniors have accomplished a lot in four years and I was proud of them,” said Fillebrown. “Even though we struggled to win games this season I feel the team and the program did take a step forward.”
Fillebrown wanted to send a special thanks to her staff, assistant coaches Kim Melanson, Sammy Lawton, and Kristen Melanson.
“In addition to taking a step forward on the court, I think the girls have grown as people,” said Fillebrown. “I have no complaints. They are all great people. A special thanks to my assistant coaches for everything this year.”