BRENHAM, Texas — The No. 16 Blinn College volleyball team (25-3, 1-2) fell to Panola College in the Kruse Center on Saturday afternoon, 3-0 (21-25, 21-25, 25-27).
Freshman Essence Clerkley led the Buccaneers with 12 kills (.360) and sophomore Paige Havel followed with 11 (.428). Taylor Henderson was also strong on offense, leading the Buccaneers with a .437 hitting percentage for nine kills.
Blinn and Panola alternated the lead the entire match, but the Ponies finished strong in each set. In the first set, Clerkley's kill tied the game 14-14. However, Panola scored the next two points and held onto the lead for the remainder of the set. Havel came up with two crucial kills for Blinn to stay behind Panola 17-16, but the Buccaneers never could pull back ahead as they fell 25-21.
In the second set, Havel recorded three kills and two block assists to lead Blinn to a 9-3 advantage. The Ponies worked their way back into the game to even the score 12-12, but Henderson and Liu each recorded kills to pull Blinn back ahead. Panola fought to grab a 17-16 lead and held onto it until Clerkley and Henderson notched two straight kills to tie the game 20-20. Panola took off on a 5-1 run to take the second set 25-21.
Blinn and Panola went back and forth in the third set until the game was tied 17-17 and Panola went on a 3-0 run. Two kills by Havel kept Blinn behind the Ponies 20-19 and Clerkley allowed Blinn to tie the match back up 24-24 by recording one kill and two block assists. Blinn was close to avoiding the sweep, but Panola managed to go on a 3-1 run for the 27-25 win.
Next, Blinn will host Victoria College on Wednesday, Oct. 9, at 6 p.m. in the Kruse Center.
Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 41 NJCAA national championships since 1987.