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Volleyball regular season ends with busy schedule

By Staff | Oct 25, 2019

Rugby’s Îsabella McCabe (no. 14) spikes the ball over the net Tuesday in a home matchup over Surrey. The Panthers won over the Mustangs in three sets. Lori Gronvold for the Tribun

Rugby High School’s Lady Panthers had a busy week wrapping up regular season play with three home games just after a day of tournament play almost 100 miles away.

The packed schedule included special recognition of senior players on Tuesday and, of course, plenty of spirit and support from the home crowd.

“They played a lot of volleyball in the last couple of days,” noted Panther varsity coach Jessica Fritz.

The series of home games began Monday with a game against the Bottineau Stars resulting in a 3-0 win for the evening. “We finished in three. The girls played well. They just played their game,” Fritz said.

A Tuesday match against the Surrey Mustangs began with Senior Night festivities and photos for athletes and their families. Included in the ceremony were volleyball players Maisey Gault; Ashley Griffin; Rachel Hartl; Alyson Mundahl; Kelly Swanson and Krystal Thiel. Parents accompanied each athlete introduced in the ceremony.

A fired-up Rugby High band and plenty of cheering fans filled the Rugby High gym with spirit.

“They came in with some new energy today,” Fritz said of the Lady Panthers.

Surrey High’s Mustangs brought plenty of energy of their own, and put up a fight for the first game of the evening.

After the Panthers pounced ahead to a 7-0 lead, a net serve gave Surrey the sideout and their first point. A quick-succession tip by Surrey’s Harli Dickman put another Mustang point on the board before Rugby stopped them with a Brooke Blessum kill. More Surrey tips and a few Panther errors slowed Rugby’s scoring drive, but the Panthers kept their forward momentum.

The Mustangs kept on the Panthers’ tail and tied the score 19-19 before the Panthers pulled ahead for good and widened their lead before putting the game away 25-21 with a Brooke Blessum kill.

Game 2 saw a brief struggle early for the Panthers as kill attempts went out of bounds, and a Surrey service ace tied the score 3-3. Accurate attacks from Brooke Blessum and Brooke Anderson put the Panthers out ahead and a drawn out battle for the ball on both sides ended with a Panther 6-3 lead. The Panthers sprang ahead with more kills and brilliant fake outs by Sarah Blessum, Aly Mundahl, Isabella McCabe and other front row players. More of Brooke Blessum’s accurate kills followed, and Mustang block attempts fell short.

Fritz substituted players later in the game, and JV players saw time on the court. A well-placed drop to the Surrey side by #6 Mykell Heidlebaugh put the Panther lead at game point, 24-13, before Panther errors gave Surrey two more points before the Panthers finished with a 25-15 win.

The Panthers seemed even more energized when they started Game 3, leaving the Mustangs to trail as they served up aces from Kelly Swanson and Sarah Blessum and sharpened their attacks. As their lead grew more comfortable, more JV players tried their hand at varsity play, and the Panthers left few scoring opportunities for Surrey. When the Panthers again had a win in their sights with a 23-9 lead, Surrey took advantage of Rugby errors to sink the ball on the Panther side and serve up another ace.

A Rachel Hartl serve touched off the final point battle, and a Surrey return to the net sewed up a 25-12 Panther win.

Describing the strategy behind the latest Panther win, Fritz said, “We talked about the importance of just playing our game all the time.”

Totals and stats for Monday’s game against the Bottineau Stars were:

Rugby 3-0 (25-16, 25-11, 25-17)

Rugby kills: Brooke Blessum, 13; Anderson, 6; Swanson, 4. Rugby aces: Sarah Blessum, 4; Maisie Gault, 2; Brooke Blessum, 2. Blocks: Brooke Blessum, 8; McCabe, 2. Digs: Brooke Blessum, 8. Assists: Sarah Blessum, 22; Kiah Gault, 3.

Bottineau kills: Kenzie Allard, 3; Whitni Peck, 3; Chelsey Jahner, 3. Aces, Allard, 2; Peck, 2. Blocks: Madi Agnes, 1; Sammy Hill, 1; Jahner, 1. Digs: Hill, 6; Sabra Peterson, 5. Assists, Mya Troska, 11.

Stats for Tuesday’s game against the Surrey Mustangs were:

Rugby kills: Brooke Blessum, 21; Swanson, 4; Mundahl, 3. Aces: Swanson, 5; Sarah Blessum, 4. Blocks: Brooke Blessum, 2. Digs: Anderson, 6; Anna Johnson, 6. Assists: Sarah Blessum, 27.

The Panthers returned to their home court Thursday to face Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood.

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