BRENTWOOD The Portland High School volleyball team walked out of Brentwood’s gym with a familiar feeling after Thursday night’s Class AAA sectional match.
The Panthers played competitively, but two-time defending state champion Brentwood cruised to a 25-14, 25-17, 25-13 victory, ending Portland’s season in the sectional match for the third consecutive season.
The Panthers (31-9) drew Brentwood (48-3) in the sectional after dropping the Region 5-AAA Tournament championship match to Beech.
“Knowing that you have to come here to play it makes that regional loss a little worse,” Lady Panther head coach Rob Lesemann said. “They’re a good team. They always are.”
Portland senior outside hitter Abby Akins was a game-time decision, but she battled through a hamstring injury that she suffered in the region final, adding five digs to her team-leading seven kills in her final contest as a Lady Panther.
“It was pretty emotional,” Akins said. “I think we played our hearts out, and that’s all any senior could ask for. We gave all we had. That’s the best win to me.”
She said that knowing they had to play Brentwood is intimidating, but the players believed they had what it took to advance past the Bruins in the sectional.
“Like the story from the Bible, David and Goliath, they’re human, and it’s possible,” Akins said. “But we’d have to give them everything we had to do it.”
Brentwood saw a majority of its firepower come from sophomore Garrett Joiner, who finished with a match-high 12 kills and 10 digs. Senior setter Anna Wilson help set Joiner up with a game-high 16 assists.
“They have really good players,” Lesemann said. “They’re tall. They’re athletic and they’re just an extremely good team.”
Despite losing in straight sets, Lesemann pleased with the effort, because it’s the most competitive that they have played the Bruins to date. Portland suffered a 25-11, 25-13, 25-14 loss at Brentwood in last year’s sectional and a 25-15, 25-16, 25-12 setback to the visiting Lady Bruins in a 2013 sectional.
“It’s the first time we’ve been down here where we really competed,” Lesemann said. “We played hard like we did all year and held our own. I was very proud of them.”
Brentwood 28th-year head coach Barbara Campbell was impressed with what she saw from the Panther squad.
“Their kids showed up to play,” Campbell said. “They were scrappy, and it was a really good team.”
The Lady Bruin program has won a state-leading 10 state championships and has been the state runner-up seven times as well.
The Lady Panther program fell to 1-12 in sectional/substate matches (with the one victory coming in 1997, when the program reached the Class A-AA State Tournament semifinals).
The Lady Panthers lose two seniors, Akins and fellow outside hitter Sydney Minnis. Those two have helped the program compiled a 117-59 record over the last four seasons.