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Lady Panthers scratch out more wins

By Staff | Sep 19, 2019

Lori Gronvold for the Tribune Panthers middle hitter Brooke Blessum goes up at the net against Nedrose Tuesday at home.

Rugby High School’s Lady Panthers climbed to the top of the District 11 standings after they managed to scratch out two more varsity volleyball wins last week and Tuesday.

Rugby traveled to Benson County last Thursday to take on the Lady Wildcats, who proved to be a challenge from the start.

The Lady Panthers seemed to fall back on a strategy of tipping the ball inches over the net without changing up the pattern, and the Lady Wildcats caught on quickly.

After falling behind mid-game, the Panthers regrouped and struggled to tie the score as point totals reached the 20s. Rugby and Benson County seemed to take turns tying the score before Rugby won 26-24 in a nail biter.

The Panthers began the second game with a Brooke Blessum kill, and ran with their lead to defeat the Wildcats 25-9.

However, the third game saw the Wildcats fight back, and the Panthers again struggled to maintain their lead, finishing the game with a 25-23 win.

“Once we got out of our own heads, we did good,” said Head Coach Jessica Fritz. “We were sort of in our own heads that first and third set, and we weren’t as aggressive as we could’ve been We tried to rely too much on our tipping, and it showed. Once we started hitting, we did fine.”

Assistant Coach Kim Anderson, whose daughter Brooke plays the outside hitter position for the varsity team, hasn’t missed a game despite her own battle against cancer. Chemotherapy infusion bags sometimes sit beneath her chair as she gives instructions and encouragement to JV and varsity players.

“I guess these girls make me want to get up to come and help them out,” Anderson said with a smile.

Of the Benson County game, Anderson said, “I think we could’ve played better, but we pulled through and played hard when things weren’t going so well. People stepped up when Brooke Blessum struggled. (The Wildcats) kind of keyed in on her tonight, so other people stepped up and kind of hit the ball first.”

Another razor-thin win was in store Tuesday this time with District 11 rival Nedrose. The Lady Cardinals, with three district and region wins under their belts faced the Lady Panthers in the RHS gym.

“We knew Nedrose was going to come in stronger than they had in the past few years,” Fritz noted after the game.

After Rugby scored the first point of Game 1, Nedrose answered with one of their own, setting the tone for another nail-biting struggle that had the Cardinals in a 13-6 lead over Rugby by the game’s midpoint. The Lady Panthers began a rally of kills, strategic blocks, and Nedrose seemed to lose focus of their own as their serves and returns went out of bounds.

After a point-for-point struggle, the Lady Panthers pulled ahead of the Lady Cardinals 24-23 before a final kill gave Rugby the 25-23 win.

Nedrose threatened early in the second game as they scored two unanswered points, but the Lady Panthers regained their focus and dominated the court with a 25-15 victory.

Game 3 of the evening began with a Brooke Anderson ace, but the Cardinals wouldn’t leave without a fight. Nedrose closed an 8-3 score gap with an ace of their own, and Panther errors squeezed the margin even closer.

As point totals climbed to the teens, both teams took timeouts to regroup. Nedrose held the Panthers back to narrow an 18-13 gap to 18-17 before a sideout gave the Panthers the momentum they needed to move ahead again. The Panthers kept the Cardinals scrambling, holding them to 17 points and wrapping up another win, 25-17.

“We knew that we needed to play our game, which we didn’t right away; our passing wasn’t where we needed it to be,” Fritz said of the game.

“And our communication wasn’t where it should have been. I don’t know I can’t put my finger on why.”

Fritz said Rugby defensive player Rachael Hartl was out for the game, and wouldn’t be able to play for a period of time.

“We talked to her before the game started,” Fritz said. ” You never realize how much a missing link can mean, but whether it’s that team chemistry thing; the communication piece; I don’t know. (Hartl) was always getting the girls fired up. Just those little things do make a difference.”

All in all, however, Fritz agreed the Lady Panthers are off to a good start.

The Lady Panthers would travel to Rolette Thursday.

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