The Lady Panthers exit the regular season victorious

Photo Submitted by GSU Athletics

Georgia State ended the year on top as the Lady Panthers took all three games in their regular-season finale against the South Alabama Jaguars.

The Panthers recognized four seniors during Thursday’s senior night, and the team awarded the vets by recording two shutouts to punctuate the win.

The team recognized seniors Leah Wilcox, Dzemila Hadzic, Jordan Shoemaker and Cierra Sillmon before the second game of the day for their accomplishments both on and off the court.

One gritty freshman reflected on the four great leaders and the impacts all seven seniors have made on their teammates.

I owe a great deal to the seniors this year. As I continue to develop my range as a player, [Wilcox] and [Sillmon] have helped me expand my knowledge of the game,” freshman Clara Bednarek said.

But the seniors’ patience and ability to teach continue to vault the younger student-athletes.

“These girls have communicated certain vulnerabilities in our opponent’s defense and helped me be aggressive as we attack those weak points together,” Bednarek said.

Good mentors are defined by how they carry themselves when they are both on and off the court, and Hadzic fulfilled that role.

“[Hadzic] is one of my biggest supporters, both on and off the court,” Bednarek said. “She is a true leader by example, and I hope to emulate her confidence in the years to come.”

Of course, learning on the job is not always easy, but having people you trust can streamline the process. Bednarek praised Shoemaker for influencing the younger talent on the team.

“[Shoemaker] has been the single most instrumental person in my success on this team,” Bednarek said. “I have a constant influx of information from her, whether communicating about things I did well or things I need to fix. She is always pushing me to be my best for the team.”

Bednarek always feels Shoemaker’s presence, and she considers herself “blessed to be able to play with and learn from her.”

But Bednarek also continues to make a name for herself at the GSU Sports Arena. The freshman blocker had another great game as she and her fellow freshmen have found their stride late in the season.

However, Thursday’s main story rightfully resided with the seniors, as Sillman set the Panthers’ tone with four blocks in each match. Shoemaker and Wilcox took charge of the offense, leading the team in both games as Shoemaker tallied 61 total assists on the day.

On Friday, the Panthers faced some struggles. But they rallied and seized the day in a 3-2 thriller to sweep the day with a four-game win streak. Key contributors this time were the freshmen, with Bednarek and Erin Wyatt recording double-digit kills, the former getting 11 and the latter setting her personal best with 19 kills.

With the regular season finished, the Lady Panthers’ next stop is Foley, Alabama. for the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.

Pool play will begin on Nov. 18 and will be the first tournament for Georgia State’s seven freshmen. With a mix of raw youth and experienced talent, the Panthers are looking to pose a challenge to anyone who underestimates them when pool play begins. But for the young freshman, the anticipation of the tournament comes with a variety of thoughts.

“I’m feeling very many emotions [about] the SBC Tournament,” she said. “There is as much a sense of excitement to compete as there is a sense of determination to play hard for my teammates.”

The final ride is near for the seniors and their teammates starting Nov. 18 in Foley, Alabama. Though that may be the end of the year, the bonds the team has made will last long beyond this season.