“I don’t believe they (the players) were overlooking Shoshoni as we knew they were a solid team,” head coach Cindi Smith said. “It just took us a little bit to get in sync. We didn’t serve receive well in the first set which made it hard for us to get in system.”
The next three sets (25-17, 25-22, 25-20) were a testament to Powell’s ability to regroup, refocus and just plain play better volleyball, not to a drop-off in play from a strong Shoshoni team.
“We relaxed and started passing more effectively, which allowed us to hit several options offensively,” Smith said.
Game three was controlled by Powell until the Lady Blue rallied and tied it at 17. The Panthers fought back and pulled ahead by three to make it 20-17. But unforced errors plagued the 3A Northwest leaders all night. A net violation by Powell (of which there were many) tied the game again at 20.
“We usually don’t have the amount of net calls that we were called on in this match,” Smith said. “We will focus on this at practice and make adjustments to improve this area.”
The teams traded points before Powell went up 22-21, but was unable to extend the lead after another unforced error, this time a missed serve, knotted things at 22.
The Panthers pushed it to game point, 24-22 and won on an ace serve right on the line near the Shoshoni bench that was called in and Lady Blue head coach Christina Mills did not agree with.
The fourth and ultimately final game mirrored the previous set in its back-and-forth nature and Powell’s inability to put much distance between itself and Shoshoni.
With the Panthers down 9-8 senior captain Becky Dent dug a fast and low Shoshoni spike to begin a sequence that ended with a Corianne McKearney kill.
Dent deftly placed the ball from the outside on the next play to put Powell up 10-9. The Panthers would not trail again in the match.
Minutes later the Panthers found themselves up 20-14 and in what seemed like total control.
A Jenni Ebersberger dig turned into another big McKearney spike to make it 21-14 and the Shoshoni Lady Blue called time out.
Shoshoni rallied back and cut it to 22-17 before kills by McKearney and Dent brought the Panthers to match point.
The raucous if not overwhelming toga-clad student constituent located in the rear bleachers began chanting “na-na-na-na, hey-hey-hey, goodbye,” but the cheers would be put on hold.
Shoshoni cut Powell’s lead to 24-19 and head coach Cindi Smith called a timeout. The Lady Blue scored twice more before McKearney sealed the win with a kill right down the middle on a called “two” set.
Shoshoni’s final point came off of a block of Dent’s spike from the outside. The Lady Blue’s celebration of the block clearly rubbed Dent the wrong way, as she spent the game’s final plays looking for another chance to end the game.
“It is the goal of all our hitters to be aggressive and play with confidence at the net,” Smith said.
Dent led the team with 23 kills, averaging nearly six per set. McKearney was second on the team with eight.
Sophomores Kelsey Marchant and Ebersberger led the Panthers in digs with 23 and 20, respectively.
“They are a big part of our serve receive and back line defense,” Smith said. “It is great to see them continually grow and take on the role of a key passer on our team. Megan Wagner also did an excellent job for us defensively.”
Senior setter Kadi Cooley notched 32 assists while anchoring the Panthers’ attack. She had an equal impact behind the service line, placing all of her 26 serves and acing five.
The Panthers improved to 10-4 overall with a 3-0 record against the Northwest Division. Powell’s next three games are at home against division opponents Lander (Friday, 5:30 p.m.), Jackson (Saturday, 1:30 p.m.) and Cody (Oct. 2, 6:30 p.m.).