AVON PARK - The South Florida State College Panthers played well, but fell short in their first match and home opener of the volleyball season against Warner University on Tuesday night.
The Royals swept past the Panthers in three sets by scores of 25-20, 25-22 and 27-25.
"We did really well. We have depth on our roster," said SFSC Head Volleyball Coach Kim Crawford, "there was only a 10-point difference in all three games and in every single one of them we seemed to dig a hole. I think we made some critical errors at some critical times, but the one thing I really loved was that we did not quit fighting."
The Panthers scored the first point of the match and that would be the last time they saw a lead in any of the games in the match. They were able to keep the first game close, not allowing Warner to get more than a two-point lead for most of the game.
"If you add up all the points tonight," said second-year assistant coach Chad Long. "And volleyball coaches do that all the time, the winning team usually wins in spurts and there were three spurts tonight that changed the outcome of the match. "
The first of those spurts came with the game tied at 16, the Royals were able to string together five consecutive points to take a 21-16 lead. South Florida was unable to recover as Warner won the first game 25-20.
The second of those spurts that Long referred to happening at the beginning of Game 2. Warner jumped out to a quick six-point lead. The Royals eventually built that lead to a 16-7 advantage.
The Panthers dug in and chipped away to get within two points at 24-22, but it was not enough as the Royals won the second game 25-22.
The third spurt was at the beginning of the third game as the Royals vaulted out to an 8-2 lead. It appeared at first to be the most lopsided of the three games as the Royals maintained that lead at 16-10.
Warner was cruising to an easy third game and match victory as they increased their lead to nine points at 23-14 and one point from ending it all at 24-17.
Up to this point, the most points that the Panthers were able to string together were four in Game 2. Other than that, they had been able to put three consecutive points on four occasions. They were now down seven with Warner needing just one to end the match. Remarkably, South Florida stood tall as they rallied to tie the game at 24 with the longest point run by either team on the night with seven.
South Florida was unable to take the lead, but tied the game again at 25 before Warner ended the game by scoring the next two points for the 27-25 win.
Long noted that they needed to work on chemistry and back court defense.
"There is difference in age and experience matters," said Long. "We have been working with them for a month now. But most these girls are 18 and just graduated from high school five months ago."
In fact, nine of the eleven players for South Florida are freshmen.
South Florida will be on the road playing in various matches or tri-matches over the next three weeks with the first one being the Indian River tri-match at Fort Pierce on Friday.
The next time the Panthers play at home will be on Sept. 17 against Suncoast Conference rival Polk State.