Panthers lost the game but showed some fight in the process, taking the Cougars to a fourth game before losing 25-23.
Even in its recent loss to Carondelet - a team that usually "intimidates" the Panthers, according to Panther Junior Blanca Moreno - Antioch showed a renewed sense of energy, as its players sacrificed their bodies for the good of the team, and played a much more charismatic style of volleyball.
"I am so proud of them," said Hemauer. "From the game against Deer Valley to the game tonight, it's like they're a completely different team."
The Panthers have struggled in their first 11 games, posting a 2-9 overall record, but since they began the conference season on Sept. 11, they've been a completely different team, shutting out conference foes Pittsburg and Ygnacio Valley in consecutive matches before coming back to earth with losses against Deer Valley and Carondelet.
Antioch's ability to win down the stretch will hinge on the play of seniors Destine Roddick and captains Audra Higbee and Britney Cervantes, who, along with classmates Priscilla Ramos, Mary Granado, Brittnay Brackenbury and Briana Babauta, have all shown increased energy of late.
"I am proud of every one of them and the effort they give toward the team," said Hemauer. "The energy they bring to the court is what we need right now."
The trio of Roddick, Higbee and Cervantes stepped up in the loss to Carondelet. Roddick finished with 11 digs and 15 assists, Cervantes had 10 digs, seven kills and four blocks, and Higbee added five kills.
Antioch's overall weakness is its inability to keep pace with opponents in the latter stages of its matches. In their first 10 matches, the Panthers' scoring average dropped from 21.3 in game one to 19.3 in game two and all the way down to 13.5 in game three.
However, if the Panthers can figure out a way to increase their stamina (which showed signs of improvement against Carondelet), the team could be sitting pretty the rest of the conference season. Of Antioch's final five opponents, only one team, Deer Valley, has a winning record.
"I think we have a pretty good chance to show our potential the rest of the season," said Moreno, who plays libero for the Panthers.
Hemauer realizes that her team has not reached its full potential, admitting there is always room for improvement, but she is confident that with time, her team will come around.
The performance against Carondelet, a team that finished last season with a 15-5 record -having swept Antioch in both matches - goes a long way toward bolstering the team's confidence. "After tonight, we're living up to our potential," said Hemauer. "It started off kind of rough, but we're getting to where we need to be."
Antioch returns to its home court Oct. 11, when the team hosts Pittsburg at 6:30 p.m.