BELLS — Finishing near the top of one of the more competitive smaller districts in the state helped the Bells Lady Panthers focus on what the postseason would bring.
And then, on their home floor, they aced their opening playoff match. Literally.
Cheyenne Floyd served out the entire third game and finished with 22 of the team’s 28 aces as Bells defeated Dallas Gateway, 25-7, 25-1, 25-0, in a Class 2A Region II bi-district match on Monday night.
There were just 10 kills as a team — Charli Waggoner and Dezeray Poe each had — and Floyd handed out seven assists for Bells (20-18), which will face the winner of Tuesday’s Lindsay-Ranger match in the area round later this week.
“They were ready to play. It was another chance to play at home,” Lady Panthers head coach Lisa Johnson said. “I told them that no matter what it’s the playoffs and you have to be ready no matter what.”
The Lady Panthers went into the postseason as the second seed after losing the District 11-2A finale against Blue Ridge — a match that went the distance with the district championship on the line.
“We were fired up and ready to go,” Johnson said. “Coming out of our district I think we’re definitely prepared.”
The buildup during district came after Bells got off to a slow start. The Lady Panthers entered 11-2A action with a losing record due to the strength of their non-district schedule but entering the playoffs was a ranked team.
“We started out slow and pretty inconsistent,” Poe said. “But when we got going you could see that we had talent and were on the way to the playoffs.”
There was little resistance from Dallas Gateway outside of a small stretch in Game 1.
Bells started the match on a 6-0 run before the Lady Gators got on the board. After a service error by the Lady Panthers, Gateway had the deficit down to 8-3 and then failed to do much the rest of the night.
Poe had a kill as Bells quickly went up double digits and closed Game 1 on a 10-0 run.
“It matters how you go out and play the next game, regardless of the opponent,” Johnson said. “We were going to be focused on what we needed to do.”
Floyd opened Game 2 at the service line and reeled off 12 straight points. Gateway finally was able to pick up a point off a return but then Waggoner and Poe had back-to-back kills as the Lady Panthers finished that frame on a 13-0 surge.
Floyd dominated Game 3 and finished off the match, which lasted 34 minutes, by herself. She put down a majority of her aces in shutting out Gateway — something she is familiar with as a pitcher for the defending state softball champs.
The opponent in the second round will definitely be several steps up for Bells but the Lady Panthers’ experience from the regular season will serve them better than Tuesday night.
“It will come down to who wants it more,” Poe said. “It’s not going to be given to us and anything can happen. You have to have faith in yourself and your team. We had a competitive district and a competitive team. It kinda goes hand in hand.”