PINETOPS – SouthWest started the year off on the right foot by making the plays and covering space on the floor like they were suppose to do. In the past couple of weeks, since conference play has started, Cougars coach Jennifer Smith has seen a drop off in her team's performance, because they aren't covering the floor like she expects them to and she sees balls hit the floor in front of them.
Those bad habits changed for one set Thursday, but not long after winning the first set did the Cougars fall right back into the same pattern.
North Pitt bounced back after dropping the first set 25-23 to SouthWest and won the next three to keep the Cougars winless in the conference.
"We have trouble with coverage and communication," Smith said. "That's all it comes down too. Those two things have kept us from winning in the conference this year."
SouthWest played above Smith's expectations in the first set. The majority of the points came from underclassmen and they were led by Lillian House and Montana York. Those two combined for seven service points and House added two spikes and York added a tip.
"We played good the first set because we were talking and were covering our spaces," Smith said. "We fell apart after that."
In the second set, things took a downward spiral for the Cougars. North Pitt scored points on easy tips and volleys, mainly because the Cougars weren't playing their area and watched balls fall in front of them after subpar efforts. North Pitt jumped out to an 8-2 lead and forced Smith to take a timeout. Something in the timeout clicked for a short amount of time, because the Cougars worked their way back into the match. House and York continued their hard work and Kaylan Page and Sydney Gould pitched in on a couple of plays, but the effort didn't last long, because the Panthers went on a 6-0 run and extended the lead to 19-12. House earned the Cougars three service points and added a tip, but North Pitt opened the gap back up and won the set 25-20.
"We aren't playing consistent on the floor," Smith said. "We have to work on moving and getting under the ball instead of watching it fall in front of us."
North Pitt took advantage of poor serves and the Cougars failed to cover space again in the third set. North Pitt opened up the margin and beat the Cougars 25-20 in that set on routine plays. The fourth set turned into what Smith has been use to seeing in recent weeks. Her team watched balls hit the floor and didn't cover their spacing like she expects them to do and the Panthers dominated that set with a 25-15 win.
"We have to be ready for balls to come our way," Smith said. "Every serve and volley we have to be on our toes and be ready to move to the ball. Our communication level has fallen down and we aren't getting our serves in."