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Panther volleyball swats Hornets

By Staff | Oct 18, 2019

Sue Sitter/PCT Rugby High School's Sarah Blessum sets the ball for a Brooke Blessum kill in the Harvey High School gym Tuesday.

Rugby High School’s Lady Panthers found themselves in a sea of pink and purple when they traveled to Harvey Tuesday night for a volleyball game against the Harvey-Wells County Lady Hornets.

Fans wearing pink T-shirts marked Breast Cancer Awareness month in the Harvey High School gym. Near the doorway, long tables held gift baskets and items for a raffle drawing to raise money for cancer charities. Other fans added splashes of pink to their purple and black HWC colors.

The Panthers took the court and began their first game of the evening’s match with their characteristic confidence, building up a 5-0 lead before the first Hornet sideout.

However, an energetic Lady Hornet team took the opportunity to answer back and pull ahead, cheered on by their home crowd. A series of Panther missteps allowed the ball to fall between players or ricochet out of bounds and before long, Rugby trailed HWC 6-9.

“We started off a little slow,” Panther Coach Jessica Fritz told the Tribune after the game. “These other teams, when they have special events, come in extra fired-up, extra excited. I think our girls were just a little nervous right away.”

The Panthers’ score crept upward, pausing here and there throughout the game. Brooke Blessum often found her mark as she sank the ball on the HWC side for several kills, but HWC’s Kalyn Keller blocked one attempt to stop the Panther offense in their tracks. After a 14-14 tie, the Panthers finally pulled ahead for good, although the Hornets stayed close on their tails.

Out of bounds Hornet kill attempts were answered with accurate Panther attacks. An Isabella McCabe kill, a drop to the HWC side and an out of bounds Hornet bounce put Rugby ahead 22-17.

A Panther net ball interrupted the charge toward game point momentarily, but an accurate kill from Brooke Anderson and more out of bounds returns from the Hornets put away Game 1 for Rugby with a 25-18 final score.

The next game of the match began with the first point to Harvey, but the Panthers jumped ahead and paced the Hornets. The Hornets stayed with the Panthers for the first seven points of the game, tying 7-7 before Rugby found their groove and built on a commanding lead.

Rugby climbed up the scoreboard to 20-9 until a return sailed past a distracted line judge, and officials issued a do-over ruling that gave Harvey a sideout in the next play.

Harvey stopped the Panthers’ attempt to continue their climb briefly when mixed signals cost Rugby one point and two aces by Hornet Jennah Lamatta narrowed the score gap to 22-13.

A net ball serve stopped the Hornets for good, and the Panthers took the second game, 25-13.

The Panthers attacked early in Game 3 with a devastating kill from Brooke Blessum followed by tips for Aly Mundahl and two Kelly Swanson aces. The Hornets struggled as the Panthers ran through the game and maintained leads of as many as 13 points much of the time.

When the Panthers again had their sights on game point at 24-7, they missed a serve and gave Harvey an opportunity to stay alive.

A failed Panther tip attempt and missed blocks gave Harvey more points, and Harvey’s Autumn Sieg’s successful block narrowed the score to 24-12. However, the Panthers sent the next volley ricocheting out of bounds off Hornet hands and the game went to Rugby, 25-12.

“I think we got it under control,” Fritz said of Tuesday’s game. “We figured out what we needed to do, and we took care of it.”

Fritz added, “We go to the Carrington tournament this weekend. The girls are looking forward to it. It’s our last tournament, so they’re excited to get down there and play some good teams; just play one more weekend of good volleyball.”

Panther stats for the game were:

Kills: Brooke Blessum, 8, Swanson, 4. Aces: Brooke Anderson, 4, Swanson, 4. Blocks: Brooke Blessum, 7, McCabe, 2. Digs: Swanson, 8, Brooke Blessum, 4. Assists: Sarah Blessum, 35, Kiah Gault, 5.

HWC player stats were not available.

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