It was everything you would want in a match between two old rivals when the Powell Lady Panthers invaded the Cody gym Thursday night.
Everything, that is, except the final score. In a hard fought match in which two games required extended play and the largest winning margin in any game was only three points, the Lady Panthers fell to the Cody Fillies in four games, 26-28, 22-25, 27-25,24-26.
“The girls played hard,” said Coach Cindi Smith. “It was a good match. I'm really proud of them for that effort.”
All four games followed the same pattern, with the Lady Panthers pulling out to a lead early in the match, and the Fillies coming back to pull even. The Panthers reached 24 first in game one, but couldn't hold the serve and the teams traded points to a tie at 26. Cody scored the last two points, though, with the winner coming on a hard Cody hit that Kadi Cooley dug, but the officials ruled her effort a double hit.
In game two, the Lady Panthers fought back from a deficit to come within one point at 22-23, but Cody's big front line powered in two kills to take a 2-0 match lead.
Game three was more of the same, with a Powell lead melting in the middle part of the match and the teams trading points to the end. Behind 24-23 and with their backs to the wall, the Lady Panthers got a block from Kendra Ostrom that stopped match point and tied the game at 24. The Lady Panthers stepped up to score the next two points and win game three.
Game four again went down to the wire. The Fillies led late and had a chance to end the match, but the Lady Panthers held off two match points to tie the score at 24. They couldn't hold serve, though, and Cody scored the final point when their kill attempt hit the top of the net and spun over at an angle, evading a block attempt by Liz Tilley and dropping to the floor before a diving Olivia Rogers could reach it.
The win, which ended four years of frustration for the Fillies, triggered a Cody celebration worthy of the state finals. Powell had won seven straight regular season victories matches over Cody, dating back to 2006 and had also bested the Fillies in the state semi-finals last year. Early this season, the Panthers had taken the Fillies 2-0 in tournament play on this year's opening weekend.
The loss was the Lady Panthers first in conference play in four years.
It was a disappointing loss for the Lady Panthers, but Smith said a close match such as this one can be a positive. The home-court advantage may have given the Fillies a boost, but adusting to the noisy crowd “is part of the growing experience,” for the new varsity members.
Utlimately, the match turned on a few mistakes at critical times, and Smith said that will give her team something to work on.
“Tonight they'll be ready at practice, and will look at what worked and what didn't,” Smith said. “We'll continue to grow.”
Three Lady Panthers were perfect from the service line during the match, led by Ostrom who was 31 for 31. Cooley was perfect on 11 and Rogers on 14. Ostrom served two aces, while Randi Asay and Hannah Groves each served three.
Asay led in kills with 16, followed by Rogers with 12 and Ostrom with six. Groves led defensively with 20 digs, while Rogers made 14 and Ostrom nine. Tilley, Asay and Ostrom each made one unassisted block and assisted on two.
The Lady Panthers will be back in conference play this week when Lander and Worland visit the PHS gym. On Thursday, the Powell girls will be looking to reverse their fortunes against the Lady Tigers, who defeated them in a 3-game match in Billings at the Montana-Wyoming Challenge earlier in the season. Saturday they take on the Lady Warriors, who defeated Cody at home last week and are 1-0 in the conference.
Thursday's matchup begins at 6:30, following freshman and JV matches at 4 and 5 p.m. Saturday's match begins at 5:30 p.m. a change from the original time. JV competition begins at 4. The freshman team will be competing in Riverton.