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Panthers sharpen claws after loss against Raiders

By Sue Sitter - | Oct 9, 2021

Sue Sitter/PCT Rugby middle blocker Kendra Leier sends a kill through the hands of Glenburn’s front line in Glenburn Sept. 30.

Fresh from a bruising District 11 defeat against Drake-Anamoose in Drake on Sept. 28, the Rugby Panthers volleyball team traveled to Glenburn to take on the Glenburn Panthers, their regional rivals, Sept. 30.

Rugby’s Panthers sit at third place in District 11 behind the Drake-Anamoose Raiders with an overall 5-3 record. Their District 11 record is 2-2. Rugby’s record in Region Six is 3-2.

Glenburn has a 0-12 record overall and a 0-4 record for District 12 games. Their Region Six record is 0-5.

Rugby notched a decisive win against Glenburn’s Panthers in three sets, 25-18, 25-8 and 25-14.

Rugby’s heartbreaker in Drake had the teams tied at two sets each before the Panther’s first fifth-set tiebreaker of the season gave the Raiders a 15-11 win.

Standouts for the Raiders included Taryn Sieg, who earned 13 unofficial kills, and Riley Hauff, who earned 10.

Rugby middle blockers Kendra Leier and Peyton Hauck scored 12 and 10 unofficial kills of their own. Setter Kiah Gault landed six aces, while freshman middle hitter Lacie Deplazes notched eight unofficial kills and three unofficial blocks in the game. Setter Joey Wolf added four aces to the Panthers’ total, while rear hitter Annika Johnson scored three kills. Libero Anna Johnson landed one ace.

The Panthers’ senior middle hitter, Brooke Anderson, sat the game out with an ankle injury.

The Raiders won the first and third sets of the game, 22-25 and 27-25, while the Panthers won sets two and four, both with scores of 25-17.

“Drake was a tough loss for these girls. We’ve had to do a lot of regrouping. We did some soul-searching as we have in the past,” said Panthers Head Coach Jessica Fritz. “We’ve been having to navigate with COVID and injuries and different people in and out. We’re going to have to learn to keep doing that, I guess.”

Fritz said of Anderson, “She’s going to try playing again this weekend. We’re going to see how things go, but we expect to have her back soon.”

“The problem is with our district, there are a couple of teams that haven’t lost, and we’ve lost one or two, so we’re kind of scattered around,” Fritz added.

Drake-Anamoose holds the second-place spot for District 11, behind the undefeated Velva Aggies.

Fritz said team standings weren’t as important as doing their best. “We’ve just got to remember to play ’til the end and play our games all the time,” she said.

The Panthers focus stayed on playing their game at Glenburn Sept. 30.

The team Rugby faced in Glenburn was younger than last year; many Glenburn standouts had graduated in May. The Glenburn Panthers’ varsity roster included three eighth graders.

The younger Panthers played with something to prove against Rugby. After one kill each by Rugby’s Leier and Heidlebaugh, an error gave Glenburn the sideout. Glenburn’s Lorelei McIver scored an ace. Glenburn’s Brooklyn Heinle followed with a kill and soon Glenburn closed in on the Panthers, who led 7-5. Heidlebaugh stretched Rugby’s lead with a kill before a net violation and double hit combined with a Glenburn block to tie the score 8-8. Kills by Rugby’s Wolf and Hauck put Rugby in the lead again. Deplazes gave Rugby a little more breathing room with a kill before Glenburn charged back, tying the score 10-10, then 11-11.

Kills by Rugby’s Hauck, Leier and Heidlebaugh followed, but the younger Panthers stayed on the Rugby Panthers’ tails.

Leier traded a kill for a McIver block. McIver sent Rugby players diving to the floor after another kill. A Rugby attack sailed out of bounds, and both teams tied again, this time at 16 apiece.

Leier and Rugby’s front row blocked one Glenburn attack before Glenburn’s rear hitter Megan Lahtonen answered with a kill. Glenburn tied the score at 18-18.

Glenburn seemed to lose focus just as Rugby’s hunger for a win grew. One Glenburn block went out of bounds, then an attack bounced into the net and down. Hauck landed a powerful kill in Glenburn territory. Deplazes followed with one of her own. At set point, a last-ditch Glenburn attack left the court. The first set went to Rugby, 25-18.

Set two began with another kill by Hauck, who set the tempo for the rest of the set. Rugby charged ahead of an early 3-3 tie after Annika Johnson tapped a kill just over the net. Two aces by Wolf followed. Glenburn struggled, making errors. A timeout called by Glenburn Coach Katelyn Dufner didn’t seem to help, as Rugby pulled farther ahead.

Errors by both Glenburn and Rugby put a few points on the board, but Rugby’s grip on the lead stayed firm. Rugby’s Panthers won by a decisive 25-8 margin.

Set three began with kills by Leier and Hauck. Mixed signals and a misserve caused a few early hiccups for Rugby before they pulled ahead to a comfortable 9-4 lead. Blocks traded by Heidlebaugh and Glenburn’s middle blockers followed, putting the score gap at 10-5. Kills by Hauck and blocks by Deplazes offset errors on both sides. Heidlebaugh landed another kill in Glenburn’s court before Leier sent one of her own bouncing off Glenburn hands.

Rugby pulled even farther ahead, leading 20-11. Another Glenburn timeout failed to settle the younger Panthers’ nerves. A double-hit error and out of bounds ball put Rugby within sight of set and game point. Rugby errors and a kill by Glenburn middle hitter Emma Jones narrowed the score to 23-14 before a kill and an ace, both by Heidlebaugh, wrapped up the game for Rugby.

After the game in Glenburn, Fritz said she looked forward to a tournament in Des Lacs Oct. 1 and 2, where Rugby’s Panthers would have the opportunity to play against a pool of teams including leaders from several regions and districts.

“There are five different teams in the pool,” Fritz said. “There’s us, Our Redeemers, Linton, Dickinson-Trinity and Park River-Fordville-Lankin. We’ll play all those teams in the pool, then go into the bracket on Saturday and it’ll be a good opportunity. It’ll get us ready for the end of the season.”

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