Pallotti volleyball shares conference lead with showdown against St. Mary's looming

Ruby Hairston bumped the ball toward the net and teammate Trinity Thomas rushed forward and hit the ball off an opposing player on the other side of the net.

The ball fell to the floor to give St. Vincent Pallotti a 21-12 lead and minutes later the Panthers put the finishing touches on a 25-20 victory against Saint John’s Catholic Prep.

That gave host Pallotti a 2-1 lead in sets and the Panthers finished off the 3-1 victory with another 25-20 decision in the fourth and final set last week in Laurel.

It was another victory for the Panthers, who are closing out teams with regularity.

“We came out and lost pretty good (in the first set) but we turned around and beat them by about the same score,” said senior co-captain Thomas. “We managed to finish those games.”

The Laurel private school had a nine-point lead in game four before winning by five and then was up by eight points late in game four, before winning again by five.

The Panthers are 5-3 overall and they have won their first five matches in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference.

They are tied with St. Mary’s (5-0) in conference play.

After hosting Our Lady of Mount Carmel (0-4 in conference) on Tuesday, Oct. 2, the Panthers will face St. Mary’s at home on Friday, Oct. 5.

“We are winning and we feel we got the win and slack off a little bit,” said Thomas, a four-year player for the Panthers and All-Conference performer last year.

“That is our issue right now, our offense is lacking at the moment,” said Tamara Leslie, the second-year head coach for Pallotti. “We have to find ways to score.”

Others starters, besides Thomas, are senior outside hitter Esperanza Tyler, junior middle hitter Ugo Okoro, junior right side hitter Alexis London, freshman outside hitter Alexandria Horne and freshman middle hitter Mia Jackson.

In the win over St. John’s Catholic Prep, the Panthers were paced by Thomas with seven kills, 13 assists, three blocks, 19 digs and five aces; 21 digs by Tyler; eight digs and seven kills by Horne; eight digs by Okoro; nine digs by Hairston; and 17 digs by Colleen Blasko.

In games through Sept. 20, the Panthers were led by Thomas in assists (47) and kills (33) and Okoro was second with 17 kills.

Thomas leads the team in aces (18) and Blasko has 10.

The Panthers played St. John’s Catholic Prep without senior outside hitter and co-captain Olivia Mitchell, a top offensive player who injured her ankle earlier in the month. Leslie hopes she can return at some point this season.

Pallotti lost in the playoffs last year to Annapolis Area Christian, which won the B title in 2017 and moved up to the A Conference this season. Leslie feels one of the teams to beat in the B Conference is St. Mary’s, of Annapolis.

Leslie took over before the 2017 season for Scott Fifield, a long-time coach for the Panthers.

This is the first high school head coaching position for Leslie, who has coached at the club level.

She played at Flowers High, for Lanham-based Kinetic in club ball and was a four-year player at Division I Morgan State of Baltimore in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

“I love her. She is a really good coach,” Thomas said. “Hopefully this year we can win the first round (in the playoffs). We have a lot of freshmen on the team this year. They are doing really good. We are winning, we are starting off really well this season.”

Pallotti grad at McDaniel College

Pallotti graduate Hayley Mills is a junior middle hitter for McDaniel, a Division III program in Westminster.

She had five kills in her first five matches this season. McDaniel was 10-1 in its first 11 matches.

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