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AYER — There is always a feeling of the unknown when a team plays for the first time in a season, and the Ayer girls volleyball team is no exception. Coming off an outstanding 15-5 season in 2008, the Lady Panthers hosted South Lancaster Academy minus some key components off that successful squad.

The team has been working hard in practice and coach Donna Ferreira has been working on blending returning players with younger players and newcomers, but before the first ball is tossed up in earnest, question marks remained that only regular season play can answer.

If there was a blueprint for how a coach would like to see their team open the season, it was on display with the Lady Panthers. Coach Ferreira got everyone ample playing time, saw solid execution most of the day, but enough mistakes to work on in practice. Most importantly, Ayer picked up the win as the Lady Panthers defeated South Lancaster Academy 25-13, 25-11 and 25-9.

“We took care of business at hand and that was the important thing,” said Ferreira. “I was happy that we got everyone a lot of playing time and I got to see everyone in a game setting. We did a lot of things well and there are some things we still need to work on, but we got the victory.”

In game one, Ayer rode a streak of hot serving to jump out to a huge lead. Angelica Yang got things started with seven consecutive service points, including a trio of aces. Katie Ferreira added four service points while Brynnan Farrington added four kills as the Lady Panthers raced out to a 14-1 advantage.

A mixture of Ayer mistakes and four service points by Angie Ortiz drew the Lady Crusaders within 17-9, but they wouldn’t get any closer. Ayer scored eight of the final 12 points, including a Gina Gibson kill off a Ferreira set that clinched a 25-13 win.

Game two started much like its predecessor as Ayer reeled off 14 of the first 15 points. Farrington was the catalyst, using her solid serve to pick up 11 consecutive points while Gibson was strong at the net with a kill and three sets.

Once again, South Lancaster Academy drew to within 17-9 and once again the Lady Panthers went on another tear to close the game. Ayer finished on an 8-2 run as three different players contributed two service points to complete a 25-11 win to grab a 2-0 lead.

The Lady Crusaders took an early lead in game three, but it was extremely short lived. Behind the serves of Anna Peck, the Lady Panthers turned a 2-2 tie into an 8-2 lead and appeared to be poised to cruise to victory.

As they had done before, South Lancaster Academy clawed back into the game, drawing to within four points at 12-8. There would be no comeback as Ayer closed out the match with a 13-1 run. Three players combined to pick up 12 service points, including Sydney Wood, who had the final three, including an ace that gave the Lady Panthers a 25-9 win to clinch the sweep.

Farrington turned in a strong all-around effort for the Lady Panthers and Yang was a key contributor in her first game in an Ayer uniform after transferring to the school.

“Everyone contributed today which was nice to see,” said Ferreira. “We were able to use some girls in different positions and to get them experience. It is always good to get the first win of the season out of the way and now we will prepare for the next match.”

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