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Blessum makes thousandth VB kill at Bottineau

By Sue Sitter - | Oct 17, 2020

Sue Sitter/PCT Panther middle hitter Brooke Blessum (third from left) celebrates her 1000th kill with teammates Anna Duchscherer, Kiah Gault, and Brooke Anderson.

The Rugby Panthers took down two district opponents on their rivals’ volleyball courts last week, but their game in Bottineau Oct. 8 had fans for both teams cheering for a Rugby player.

Panther middle hitter Brooke Blessum made her 1,000th career kill in the game against the Stars in the Bottineau High School gym.

The first set in the Bottineau game saw a 25-8 victory for the Panthers, with Rugby leaping ahead of the Stars 5-0 thanks to a kill by outside hitter Brooke Anderson and an ace by setter Sarah Blessum.

The Stars could do little to stop the Panther front line of Anderson, Brooke Blessum, and Bella McCabe who, along with Peyton Hauck and Anna Johnston, quickly put the set away for the Panthers.

Brooke Blessum started the second set off with a kill. An ace by her cousin, Sarah Blessum, came next, along with a block from Mykell Heidlebaugh. Bottineau’s middle hitter Whitni Peck answered with a kill of her own before Brooke leaped after another set to land a kill in the Stars’ court. Before the next serve, Panthers on the sidelines and Rugby fans jumped from their seats and unfurled two banners reading, “Congratulations Brooke on 1000 kills!”

Bottineau players and fans also applauded.

The Stars returned to play, determined to make the game their own. Peck, setter Mya Troska and middle hitter Madeline Wilmot took advantage of Panther mis-hits to narrow the score gap to 10-8 at one point before the Panthers landed on their feet, putting more kills in Bottineau territory and making the Stars scramble after the ball. Rugby kept control of the game, allowing only one more Bottineau point before winning the second set 25-9.

Panther starters rotated with second-stringers in the third set. The new set of Panthers clawed at the Stars, who fought their way to a brief one-point lead before Panther kills and an ace by setter Kiah Gault put Rugby back in the lead. The Stars stayed close to the Panthers, with an ace by Star libero Sabra Peterson and Panther net balls once again putting Bottineau on their tails. A long Star rally reduced Rugby’s lead to 21-19 before a Panther sideout set up an opportunity for Anderson to land a kill just inside Star territory. Peck came back with a kill and a Star sideout to narrow Rugby’s lead to 23-20 before Anderson tipped another into their court and McCabe sent a kill bouncing off Bottineau hands. After the 25-20 Rugby win, Panthers and fans rushed toward Brooke Blessum for congratulatory hugs and photos.

“I’m pretty proud of my team and obviously that’s a big accomplishment,” Brooke said. “My setter, Sarah, I couldn’t have done it without her,” she added.

Brooke said she’s always loved volleyball.

“I’ve played volleyball since seventh grade. Varsity since 10th grade. At our house, I’ve been playing it since I was little,” she added, noting she was happy to have her cousin share in her milestone.

“I’m looking forward to districts and regionals,” she added.

“You know, she’s such an amazing player,” Panther Coach Jessica Fritz said of Brooke. “She deserves every one of these accomplishments,” she added. “It’s been fun to watch her grow from her freshman year until now and she deserves this.”

“She didn’t have a clue (she’d hit the 1000 mark),” Fritz said of Brooke Blessum. “She had an idea, but she didn’t know it was happening tonight. Some of her friends and I kind of talked about it. They were excited for this to happen. It was a great surprise.”

“We put in a lot of our subs in our third set too and we wanted to give everybody a chance,” Fritz said of the game against Bottineau. “With this being the last district game and the first two went so well, we just figured we needed to get in there and be aggressive and give everybody a little time. We don’t know what the next days are going to bring and what’s going to happen, so we’re just kind of preparing for everything.”

Fritz added, “We have a couple of games coming up against out-of-district teams, and region games, so I’m excited. We have to go in and play hard with everything. Just take every game one game at a time.”

Rugby Panthers 3, Bottineau Stars 0

Rugby Kills: Brooke Blessum, 19, Brooke Anderson 6, Bella McCabe 6

Rugby Blocks: Brooke Blessum, 8

Rugby Assists: Sarah Blessum, 27

Rugby Aces: Sarah Blessum, 4

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