Panthers blank Titans
Homecoming week started well for Rugby High School athletics. The volleyball team opened District 11 play with immense energy en route to a 3-0 win over TGU at Charlie Hanneman Gymnasium on Tuesday.
The lethargic Titans struggled to match the intensity and assertiveness of the Panthers at the net. The RHS straight-set win came at 25-18, 25-13 and 25-19.
“I think we went over a lot of stuff at practice and we kept everything up, which we didn’t do the other night,” senior hitter Kassi Jorgenson said.
The Panthers rebounded after a 3-1 loss to visiting Rolette-Wolford on Sept. 18.
Jorgenson said serving was a major focus in practice leading up to the match against TGU.
In the opening set, TGU struggled with RHS senior Elizabeth Blessum’s jump serve. In the second set, it was Alyssa Mattern, who retained her serve on more than five points in one sequence. Classmate Darby Deckert was among the servers to find success in the final set.
“The past few (matches) we’ve missed a lot of serves and we knew that was something to work on,” Mattern said, “so it felt good to get those points for the team.”
Mattern recorded a match-high four aces. Deckert and senior Emily Stier shared a match-high six kills. Junior setter Shea Heidlebaugh had a match-high 19 assists and senior Alicia Leier led the Panthers with five digs.
“The girls just came in with a positive attitude and we wanted to play well,” RHS coach Jessica Fritz said. “We did really well overall in our serving. We made a lot of improvement.”
TGU was without senior setter McKayla Thompson, who is out indefinitely with an injury. Junior Sam Drader filled in well (team-high 11 assists), but is learning the position on a team with just two players with extensive varsity experience.
“Some kids played intimidated a little bit, but we’re trying to figure out our second setter,” TGU coach Julie Smesrud said. “That’s a first-girl setting on varsity and that it’s a lot of pressure.”
Both teams have much work ahead in district play, but each win proves vital, and that point wasn’t lost on Mattern.
“Your seed in district can make or break you,” she said. “The better you do, the better chance you have of coming out on top.”
Comets cruise with height
The Rolette-Wolford Comets enjoyed a strong tuneup in a non-district action with their 3-1 win over Rugby.
Lexy Wittmayer, a 6-foot-2 junior, gave the Panthers fits at the net. Wittmayer connected on match-highs of 26 kills and eight blocks. The Panthers didn’t have a single player with double-digits kills, and the Comets provided Wittmayer strong support with Hannah Walsh and Lynnsey Slaubaugh adding 13 kills apiece.
The Panthers stole the second set in a spirited 28-26 game, but played from behind much of the evening. The Comets won the other three sets 25-21, 25-20 and 25-15.
RHS hosted Sawyer on Thursday, R-W played at Dakota Prairie and TGU was at Velva.
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