Lady Panthers look to hold home court in CF Invitational

Last year’s Carolina Forest Invitational was won by Hurricane Irene, forcing the cancellation of the high school volleyball tip-off.

But with Hurricane Isaac apparently headed toward the Gulf Coast, the only storms involving this year’s tournament will be some pinpoint spikes.

Fifteen teams will make the trip to Carolina Forest for Saturday’s all-day tourney, which features pool play during the day and a single-elimination tournament in the afternoon and night.

“The tournament this year has the best competition yet to date,” Carolina Forest coach Brittany Drew said. “There are many top teams in the state, such as Ashley Hall (SCISA-AAA) state runner up and Aiken (AAAA- state runner-up).”

Aiken, the Class AAAA state runner-up and  Aiken is among nine schools from the top classiciation, including Blythewood, Lugoff-Elgin, Riverside, Wando, Spring Valley, Carolina Forest, Ashley Ridge and North Augusta.

Ashley Hall joins private schools Christ Church, Cardinal Newman and and Pee Dee Academy, in the field. North Myrtle Beach, which returns All-Region VIII-AAA team members Taylor Allman, joins Class AAA power Airport.

The host Lady Panthers hope to hang with the big girls despite the key losses of college-bound standouts Katie Davis and Sara Bane.

“We did lose two great players last year, (but) the team this year has a great attitude and are working really hard to defend our region title,” Drew said. “(They) have a special bond out on the court and give it their all everyday.”

Carolina Forest has five returning seniors, libero Jessica Watts, defensive specialists Carissa McCumber and Brittany Howard, middle hitter Cristina Wright and outside hitter Sam Barrett, plus some solid newcomers.

Pool play gets under way at 8:15 a.m. Saturday, followed by the start of the single-elimination tournament in the afternoon and the final scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Admission is $5 and the concession stand will be open.

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