‘Nobody’s laughing now’
Pink Panthers make second straight playoff appearance
By Harry M. Anderson, Jr.
Special to the Michigan Citizen
Before the arrival of Sharon Lee as head volleyball coach at the Detroit International Academy, some teams in the PSL didn’t take them or their nickname, the Pink Panthers, seriously. In her first season two years ago, they went 7-3 and made the PSL playoffs. The DIA finished third in the PSL East with a 5-2 record and 7-2. The Pink Panthers made the playoffs again this season. Not only did the Pink Panthers surprise themselves, but they surprised their opponents as well.
“One of the keys to the team’s success is that I try to spend time individually with the girls,” Lee said. “I help the girls with their style of play and encourage them to go to different volleyball camps to develop their skills.”
Lee says the girls work hard because they believe in hard work and dedication.
“I make them focus on what’s at hand. That’s what drives them to do well,” she said, acknowledging the other teams used to laugh at the team’s mascot the Pink Panther because of the old cartoon show.
“But in the cartoon show, the Pink Panther would sneak up and surprise people and that’s what we’ve done with most of the teams in our division; we’ve snuck up and surprised them. Nobody’s laughing now!”
Pacing the Pink Panthers on the court are seniors Alicia Craig (hitter), Kira Hudson (libero) and sophomores Casmir Hudson (digger) and Nia Graves (setter).
“I don’t want them just to be good players; I want them to have the same opportunity I did and get a degree,” Lee said. “Volleyball motivated me to get that opportunity.”
Lee played two years of collegiate volleyball at Wayne County Community College under the direction of Larry Gipson. She also earned her associate’s degree while playing.
“I want them to raise their level of play and give them the chance to go to college.”
Cass Tech won its showdown with King in a girls’ volleyball match up Oct. 7 at King. The Lady Technicians defeated the Lady Crusaders (25-8, 25-19 and 25-13) to clinch first place in the PSL East. Both teams were 6-0 in the division before the contest.
Cass Tech is now 7-0 in the PSL East (18-15-6 overall), while King dropped to 6-1 in the PSL East (14-2 overall).
“We played a very good first match, but the second game was as fulfilling,” said Cass Tech Head Coach Ed Tomlin. “The third game was a better effort and it wasn’t as close.”
Tomlin says his team has to get better for the PSL, state, regional playoffs.
“I think we were competitive during the matches,” said King Head Coach Michele Lewis. ”We gave them a good game. They have a lot of power in their spikes and we have to find a way to stop it.”
The Technicians also defeated Southeastern Sept. 30, and DIA in four matches. King defeated DIA on Sept. 30 in four matches and Southeastern in three straight matches Oct. 3.
Renaissance won the showdown for first place in the PSL West, Oct. 3 as the Phoenix (7-0, 23-3-1) defeated Western (6-1, 8-2) in three matches, 25-18, 25-7, 25-9. The Cowgirls led the first half of the first match until the Phoenix tied it 9-9 and then took over. Power spikes by Renaissance overpowered Western throughout all three matches.
Arielle Sears and Tristyn Walton once again paced the Phoenix. Sears had 23 assists, 10 aces and two kills while Walton had 12 kills, four aces and one block.
“I want to applaud Western for making our girls play better,” said Renaissance Head Coach Lewis Mitchell. “We’re using this game as a precursor for (PSL) playoffs.”
Both teams were victorious Sept. 30 before their showdown. Renaissance defeated Henry Ford 25-3, 25-5, 25-4. Western defeated CMA in a game that went five matches, 25-19, 25-13, 13-25, 19-25, and 15-13. Alaya Vasquez had 21 service points, Lily Martinez had 16 assists and Alexandra Resendez had seven aces, four digs and three kills.
On Oct. 7, Western defeated Henry Ford 25-12, 25-20, 25-20, while Renaissance defeated CMA.