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Volleyball wraps regular season with wins

By Staff | Nov 1, 2019

Lori Gronvold for the Tribune Brooke Anderson (No. 11) goes for a spike in a home set Tuesday.

Rugby High School’s Panther varsity volleyball squad rounded out their regular season with two home wins, a pink out night and a possible preview of a regional matchup.

However, after last Thursday’s win against Mohall/Lansford/Sherwood’s Mavericks, Panther Coach Jessica Fritz said Rugby would take each challenge “one game at a time. Everything is one game at a time.”

The Mavericks, who count six seniors on their team, showed up in the RHS gym last week ready to play. The first game of the evening had the Mavericks on the Panthers’ tail most of the time, with tie scores until the Panthers broke away and held MLS to 20 points for a 25-20 win.

The Panthers found Game 2 of the evening a bit easier, although they faltered at the start when a Maverick tip had them diving to return the ball. The early struggle saw tie scores and brief MLS leads until the Panthers found their rhythm and lunged out ahead 14-8. The Panthers continued their forward progress and held the Mavericks to just seven more points, ending the game with a 25-15 win.

Game 3 saw a reenergized Maverick team, but the Panthers kept up their pace, and Fritz moved JV players Mykell Heidlebaugh and Annika Johnson onto the court. Although the Mavericks managed a higher score than Game 2, the Panthers soundly defeated MLS 25-19.

“Mohall is a very consistent team,” Fritz said after the game. “No matter when we play them, they fight. They’re scrappy, they get after everything, and they’re getting some balls that other teams haven’t. They have a 6-foot player up front to give us some trouble sometimes. So, our girls were like, ‘what do we do, what do we do?’ I said, ‘You’ve got to keep playing and staying aggressive every time.'”

Aggressive play was the key to Tuesday’s Panther win against the Panthers of Glenburn.

Fans filled the RHS gym decked out in pink to support a victory against another aggressive opponent – breast cancer. Students held a silent auction and a bake sale to raise money to fight the disease, and survivors of all types of cancer were recognized during a break between games.

Glenburn’s Panthers had five seniors among them, and their front line at times towered over some of Rugby’s players.

The District 12 team may again face Rugby’s Panthers in Region 6 playoffs, depending on district playoff results.

Both Panther teams battled through the first game of the evening.

Glenburn struck first with a service ace, and Rugby found some difficulty landing the ball in the other court. Other Glenburn attacks left Rugby scrambling for the ball.

When Rugby trailed Glenburn 3-7, coaches called a timeout.

After a Glenburn tip and Rugby error, Rugby got the sideout and regained their momentum.

“We tried a couple of different things; put some girls in different positions, and they battled back and did a lot of great things,” Fritz said of Rugby’s comeback strategy.

RHS built slowly on their score, upping their defense and staying alert to changes in Glenburn’s offense. Rugby pulled ahead for the first time with a 13-12 lead, on a Brooke Blessum tip, and Glenburn had difficulty keeping up as Rugby’s lead mounted.

Rugby continued to change up their strategy and take advantage of Glenburn errors. A missed Rugby block threatened to give Glenburn a chance to come back at game point, but a Brooke Blessum kill sealed up the first game’s win at 25-20.

Game 2 began with a Brooke Blessum ace, and Glenburn sent returns into the net and out of bounds.

Glenburn fought back to put a point on the board, making the score 5-1 Rugby.

Rugby maintained a solid lead for most of the game until Glenburn regrouped with a timeout of their own at a 22-15 Rugby lead. Rugby coaches put more JV players in their lineup, and the younger players met the challenge.

Rugby allowed their Panther rivals just three more points, however, and Game 2 ended with a 25-18 RHS win.

Game 3 began with a strategic tip from Brooke Blessum and two more Rugby points. Both teams saw hits go out of bounds and into the net, and soon Glenburn tied the score 8-8. The score remained close until Isabella McCabe came through with two service aces and Glenburn sent two more into the net.

Rugby’s Panthers stretched their lead with a Brooke Blessum kill and misses from Glenburn due mixed signals. Glenburn managed to score16 total points, the last one coming at Rugby’s game point, but Rugby prevailed with a 25-16 win.

Players posed for group pictures, and a tearful Brooke Anderson hugged her mom, Assistant Coach Kim Anderson, who had often brought her chemotherapy bag with her to the season’s games so she could stay at her coaching post.

“They fought hard,” Fritz said of the Panthers – on both sides.

Fritz said Rugby’s coaching staff tried to move more JV players into Tuesday’s game to prepare for tournament play.

“We tried to get everybody in, and get them some court time. We want these girls to get these opportunities because if it ever happens that they have to go in a big game, I want them to have a little bit of practice and just kind of know what they need to do on the court.”

Looking forward to districts in Westhope later this week, Fritz said, “We’ll stay at home. We’re going to practice, we’re going to finalize some things we need to get ready for tournaments. The second half of the season begins when we start hitting tournaments because every game counts now.”

Stats for last Thursday’s game against MLS were – Rugby kills: Brooke Blessum, 13; Isabella McCabe, 6; Kelly Swanson, 3; Brooke Anderson, 3. Rugby service aces: Maisie Gault, 3; Swanson, 3; Brooke Blessum, 3. Rugby blocks: Brooke Blessum, 8. Rugby digs: Brooke Blessum, 9; Maisie Gault, 5; Swanson, 5. Rugby Assists: Sarah Blessum, 20; Kiah Gault, 3.

MLS kills: Janie Savelkoul, 11; Leah Feland, 5. MLS service aces: Madison Moberg, 2. MLS digs: Savelkoul, 10; Feland, 9. MLS assists: Allison Undlin, 2; Autumn Smith, 2.

Stats for Tuesday’s game against Glenburn were – Rugby kills: Brooke Blessum, 15; Anderson, 6; McCabe, 6. Rugby service aces: McCabe, 3; Rugby blocks: Brooke Blessum, 2. Rugby digs: Brooke Blessum, 13; Swanson, 8. Rugby Assists: Sarah Blessum, 28; Kiah Gault, 2.

Glenburn kills: McKenna Rolland, 8; Lorelei McIver, 5. Glenburn service aces: Jackie Ostlund, 3; Rolland, 3. Glenburn blocks: Lorelei McIver, 3; Rolland, 3. Glenburn digs: Ostlund, 8; Nadia Post, 6. Glenburn assists: Post, 7; Morgan McIver, 4.

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