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PANTHERS GIRLS’ VOLLEYBALL FALLS IN HOME OPENER

AYER – On Tuesday evening, the Ayer-Shirley Regional girls’ volleyball team was hoping a little home cooking would help get them on the right track. Playing its first home match of the season the Panthers welcomed the Hawks of Hudson High School as both teams hit the court looking for their first win. Unfortunately for the hosts, things didn’t go according to plan as the visiting Hawks came away with a 3-1 victory. With the win, Hudson improves to 1-2 on the season. The win comes after losses to Groton-Dunstable Regional and Advanced Math and Science Academy. For Ayer-Shirley, the loss is its third straight to begin the 2021 season, falling to 0-3. The Panthers have fallen to Marlborough, North Middlesex Regional and now Hudson. A-S will try again to pick up its first win on Friday afternoon when they travel to the Fitchburg/Westminster border to take on the Bulldogs of Monty Tech. After Tuesday’s match against the Hawks, Ayer-Shirley head coach Ally Fillebrown spoke with the Tracker about her team’s effort in its home opener. “I think we had moments of success and we also had things that we can work on and fix. Fortunately, we do get to play Hudson again so we will have another chance against them later in the season,” said Fillebrown. “I thought our energy was there tonight but there were a few moments in the match where we lost momentum when Hudson started hitting their spots.” In the first set of Tuesday’s match, the tourists came out of the gate strong, jumping to a 10-4 lead early on. Hudson never relinquished the lead as it maintained its advantage thanks to a strong net game by #26. Hudson expanded the lead to double digits and never looked back as it notched a 25-13 victory. Despite the loss, the Panthers received strong efforts from Maddie Davis, Lili Kaeppel and Willow West during the set. In the second set, the Panthers roared back. The hosts answered Hudson’s opening round punch with a haymaker of their own as Ayer-Shirley picked up a 25-16 win to tie the match at one set apiece. Anabelle Clemence was dominant up front around the net with a handful of kills for the home team while Alicia Towne and Davis were solid with the serve, each registering aces during the set. In the pivotal third set of this one the two teams battled through the midway point of the set. Deadlocked at 10-10, the squads continued to duke it out. “Give Hudson credit, they have some talented players,” said Fillebrown. “When our opponents are playing smart, we have to try and play one step ahead and not lose focus and continue to battle it out. We need to try to stay proactive instead of reactive. With that said, I think we had some real bright spots and things we can continue to work on and build off.” With the Panthers clinging to a 14-13 lead the Hawks put together a rally, scoring 10 of the next 11 points to grab a 23-15 upper hand. Hudson survived a late surge from the Panthers, who scored six straight points to close the deficit to 23-21. The Hawks reclaimed the upper hand in the match with a 25-21 triumph. Ayer-Shirley entered the fourth set against the ropes as Hudson was ready to deliver the knockout. The Hawks scored 13 of the first 18 points to take a 13-5 lead. Even the strong play of Kaeppel, Olivia Pampinella and liberos Kaylin Magno and Emma Ravgiala weren’t enough for the hosts in the fourth set as Hudson never surrendered the lead the rest of the way and locked up the match with a 25-14 win.