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October 23, 2008 3:01 am

Lady Panther volleyball seniors prep for their finale

Written by Tribune Staff

The Powell High School Lady Panthers enter the regional tournament this week with high hopes of starting a run at the state title.

For Kelsey Allen and Erica Woodward, this year's postseason also means the end of their volleyball careers, and the two seniors are practicing hard to make sure they end on a high note.

For Allen, that means trying to keep her skills sharp and hoping her sore ankle is well enough to take the court this weekend. For Woodward, it means preparing for whatever role she is assigned this weekend, stepping in wherever the team needs her, including the possibility that she will have to take on Allen's position.

But the goal for both is the same, helping their team challenge for the state championship.
“I'm excited for regionals and state,” Allen said. “I think we have a good chance of winning it.”

When asked about her ankle, Allen would only admit to its being “sore,” and added that she thinks she'll be ready to go by Friday.

The girls have traveled different paths as Lady Panthers. Allen stepped into the varsity libero position as a sophomore and has been the starter ever since. During that time, she has developed into a dependable defender on the back line and, when called upon, an effective server. She played a big role last year when the Lady Panthers won the conference and regional championships and earned their first trip to state in several years. Only a disappointing, hard-fought loss to Wheatland kept her and her teammates from playing for the championship.

Woodward has also played the libero position but on the junior varsity squad. This year is her first year on the varsity, and she has played a different role, filling in as a blocker or on the back line. Earlier in the year, she saw playing time when sophomore Randi Asay injured a knee and in last week's final conference game with Worland, where she stepped in for Allen and helped PHS keep its conference record perfect. She has also been effective from the service line, once serving four straight aces against Lovell.

“I didn't think I'd get to play much this year,” Woodward said, “but I've played a lot after Randi got hurt.

“Not that I'm glad Randi got hurt,” she added quickly.

Volleyball has been important to both girls, but especially to Allen. Even though she plays basketball, and a few weeks ago was elected homecoming queen, she still counts her time on the court as her best time at PHS.

“It's my top high school memory,” Allen said.

Woodward recalled the emotion of senior night this year, when she and Allen were honored by their teammates. She not only played extensively in the Lady Panthers' win over Cody that night, she also sang the National Anthem before the match.

“I cried that night,” Woodward said. “Before it started, Hannah (Pollart) told me not to cry, but then she was the first one to start crying.”

How will they feel when it's all over? That depends on how their last match turns out, and both girls hope it ends with a state title. Either way, though, they know it will be an emotional moment.

“We'll probably cry either way,” Allen said.