Panthers notch two more VB wins as they prepare for final regular district games
A bouquet of balloons placed on a bench behind the Rugby Panther volleyball team’s chairs bounced up and down as the Panthers played the Westhope-Newburg Eagles Oct. 1 in Rugby High’s Hanneman Gym.
“It’s Jessica Fritz’s birthday Saturday, “ said Rugby Assistant Coach Deb Goven, moving the bouquet’s base to clear space on the bench.
For her present, Coach Fritz received two wins from the Panthers that week, one Sept. 29 against Drake-Anamoose, and a second against the Eagles two days later.
“Any win is a good birthday present,” Fritz smiled after the game. “It was nice.”
The Panthers won against both teams last week in three straight sets each.
Rugby stayed in control against both opponents, but both put up tough fights, with Drake-Anamoose staying on the Panthers’ tails in two sets, scoring 20, then 19 points against the Panthers.
The Eagles struggled more against Rugby, falling 25-5 in the first set.
A flurry of kills gave the Panthers a 4-point lead in the first set before a misserve gave the Eagles a sideout, but the Eagles’ middle hitter Ava Hermes and outside hitter Trinity Amason could only play catch-up with the Panthers as Rugby middle hitter Brooke Blessum and outside hitters Bella McCabe and Joey Wolf delivered kill after kill, leaving the Eagles in the dust.
Westhope-Newburg Coach Kim Braaten rallied her team between sets. After a couple of missteps, the Eagles answered a Brooke Blessum kill and a block by Panther right side hitter Peyton Hauck with a point of their own. Still, the Panthers stayed ahead, climbing to an 11-3 lead before Westhope-Newburg landed kills of their own and kept their serve after Panther errors.
The Panthers’ lead rose to 22-11, exhausting the Eagles. The Panthers charged ahead, and at game point, a Riley Grove ace wrapped up the set 25-11.
The Eagles fought even harder in the third set, confidence buoyed when they scored the first point on a miscalculated Panther kill.
Their enthusiasm faded as the Panthers pulled ahead.
The Eagles paced Rugby early in the set, at one point trailing by only two points on a few Rugby missteps, but the Panthers landed on their feet and pulled ahead, leading 17-9 at mid-set.
The Eagles kept their fight up, making the Panthers dive to the floor to recover a few returns.
But as the Panther lead reached 20-11, most fans and players knew there was no stopping Rugby.
A few Rugby stumbles gave Westhope four more sideouts, but a well-executed Sarah Blessum kill ended the set and game for Rugby.
Fritz said the wins would help the Panthers prepare for district opponents and playoffs ahead.
“Next week we have our last two district games. They’re against Velva and Bottineau. They’re two of the upper seeds in our district, so we need to be ready to play all the time,” Fritz said.
Fritz said the team would prepare for the away games against district leaders by working on serving the ball. “The last couple of days, we were working on our serving and we passed a lot better because of that tonight, I think,” she noted.
“We’re going to keep hitting home on those basics, servicing and communication,” Fritz added. “They make the rest of the game easier. If we keep working on our servicing, we’ll always do good things.”
Rugby 25 25 25
05 11 15
Rugby: Kills: Brooke Blessum, 9; Bella McCabe, 3, Joey Wolf, 3
Assists: Sarah Blessum, 14, Kiah Gault, 5. Aces: Brooke Blessum, 6, Sarah Blessum, 3, Riley Grove, 3. Blocks: McCabe, 2, Peyton Hauck, 2. 1; Digs: Anna Johnson, 6, Brooke Blessum, 6.
Westhope-Newburg: Kills: Trinity Amason, 5, Ava Hermes, 2. Assists: Ellie Braaten, 7, Hermes, 10. Aces: Solveigh Amanson, 1. Digs: Hermes, 10, Braaten, 9.