The Massaponax volleyball team hasn’t let the loss of six key seniors from its talented 2018 squad affect its goals for this season.

Head coach Joe Cox is encouraged by his team’s chemistry and the ability of Mya Green to run its offense. Cox also likes that the Panthers don’t let bad plays or circumstances linger.

That final trait was on display in Massaponax’s district contest at Spotsylvania County rival Riverbend Tuesday night.

The Panthers dropped the first game and fell behind 10–1 in the fourth but emerged with a 3–1 (20–25, 25–12, 25–16, 25–22) victory over the Bears.

Massaponax (5–0, 3–0 Commonwealth) remains unbeaten heading into a district matchup with Mountain View at home on Thursday.

“We’re at our best when we’re playing fast, which is going to mean that every once in a while we’re going to look really silly because we’re going to the shoot a ball over a girl’s head and stuff like that,” Cox said. “But I really like the way that when we’re not at our best we move on to the next play pretty well.”

The Panthers had to do just that against the gritty Bears (1–4, 0–3).

Riverbend used a 7–0 run in the first game to take control, 17–13. The Bears then finished the Panthers off with five straight points.

Massaponax dominated the next two games before the Bears sprinted to a nine-point advantage to start Game 4.

“It was not an ideal situation,” Panthers’ senior outside hitter Mackenzie Green said of falling behind. “But I think we knew we could come back.”

The Panthers tied Game 4 at 14-all before the Bears responded and led 22–20. Massaponax closed with the final five points to secure the win.

Riverbend second-year head coach Brittany Brown said her team’s level of enthusiasm picked up after some constructive criticism in between games 3 and 4. Brown said although her players support one another they often don’t know how to express it, so she had to get specific.

“Basically I went into the huddle and I was like ‘Look, we need more energy from everybody, including the bench,’” Brown said. “I looked at my bench players and I told them ‘If you want to be out there and you want to see more court time you need to cheer on the people that are out there.’

“It really motivated them to want to do better.”

Green paced Massaponax with 14 kills and 11 digs. Mya Green provided 30 assists and 15 digs. Imani Lewis delivered 10 kills.

Cox has added the stat category “dimes” this season to represent the number of times a player delivers a good serve-receive pass. Makayla Wonpat had five kills, 10 digs and 10 dimes. Kimberly Dishman added 17 digs and nine dimes.

The Panthers have new contributors all over the court, but it hasn’t stopped them from thriving early on.

“I think we embrace having new people and we still want to bond with each other,” said Lewis, a senior middle blocker. “That shows on the court.”

Angela Potts led Riverbend with eight kills. Cassidy Plucker dished out 21 assists. The Bears will host Chancellor tonight in nondistrict action.

“We’re working on being more consistent and I think we have the ability to do really great things,” Brown said. “I think we showed some of that tonight … I’m hoping by the end of the season we’ll see a huge turnaround and we’ll be killing it all the time.”

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Taft Coghill Jr: 540/374-5526

tcoghill@freelancestar.com

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