McCUTCHEON

Jackson County's Sydney McCutcheon sets the ball Tuesday (Oct. 6) in the Panthers' five-set loss to Apalachee. 

The region tournament isn’t until next week, but a dose of postseason intensity arrived at Panther Indoor Stadium Tuesday.

The Jackson County volleyball team fell to region opponent Apalachee (25-22, 18-25, 25-22, 26-28, 11-15) in a nip-and-tuck match decided with a fifth-set tiebreaker.

“We told them that we thought that they fought their tails off,” Jackson County coach Ron Fowler said of his message to the team. “We know that every time we play Apalachee — from when we were here in the past, playing them the past couple of years — they’re a great team. Coach (Joey) Aflonso does a great job there. They’re one of those teams that you’ve really got to fight for every point because they’re going to fight for every point.”

Though his team lost narrowly in a match with multiple contested calls for both teams, Fowler called the contest “exciting.”

“Those are the matches that we need to be in to prepare us to make those runs in the state and get us better for the region tournament next weekend,” he said.

The pivotal moment in the match came in the fourth set when Apalachee fought off match point multiple times to win the set in extra points, 28-26, forcing a tiebreaker. Fowler said missing out on opportunities to end the match then was “definitely tough.”

“Our girls, as you can see, they’re emotional afterwards,” he said. “It went back-and-forth, back-and-forth. There were some calls both ways. That was kind of a punch to the gut.”

Up 11-10 in the tiebreaker, Apalachee won four of the last five points to end the match.

Nevertheless, Fowler believes Tuesday’s experience, though not a victorious one, will strengthen his young squad for what’s ahead.

“Oh, 100 percent,” Fowler said. “Like coach Alfonso said before the game, they’ve got seven seniors. We don’t have any. We play three freshmen. We’re getting better every match. We really are. There was a little bit of adversity coming into today with some things going on that we can’t control. But I thought our girls played their tails off. They definitely made us proud.”

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