The Panthers defeated Rawlins in the quarterfinals but couldn’t keep pace with the eventual-champion Torrington Trailblazers in the semis, losing three games to one (25-21, 16-25, 13-25, 16-25) and ending their bid for a state title.
The Panthers then beat Newcastle in their first consolation game to advance to the third-place match against Douglas. Powell would lose that match in five – 25-23, 14-25, 25-18, 18-25, 10-15.
The semifinal match against Torrington, the eastern conference’s No. 1 seed, began with a 25-21 Powell victory, but the Panthers would not score more than 16 points in a set the rest of the match.
After the big first-set win by an aggressive Panthers team, Powell sounded and looked flat against a much more energetic and talkative Torrington team in set two.
“Their offense started clicking and we didn’t make the adjustments we needed to make,” said head coach Cindi Smith.
Down 16-8, the Panthers made their only run of the game, pulling within 18-12, but could not cut the lead to less than six.
Things would get worse from there as the Panthers managed only 13 points in the third set. The Panthers would go on to lose their third consecutive set, sending Torrington to meet Star Valley in the 3A state finals.
Senior captain Becky Dent, who notched 23 kills in the quarterfinals, managed only 10 against the Trail Blazers.
“(The players) are disappointed because they knew they stepped out ready and they didn’t finish,” Smith said.
Bright spots in the semifinal match included five blocks by junior Cassidi Partridge and 31 digs by sophomore libero Jenni Ebersberger.
Smith said her team knew that despite the loss, there was still something to achieve.
“When certain things happen there’s things you can change and things you can’t,” Smith said. “They knew it couldn’t be first (place) but you pull together as a team in those situations.”
Dent led the Panthers’ attack against the Rawlins Outlaws in a four-set match that began with a Rawlins win and ended with a 33-31 match-sealing victory for the Panthers.
Junior Shawnea Harrington added 11 kills and senior Corianne McKearney had eight in the quarterfinals.
As in the championship bracket, the Panthers won their first-round matchup in the consolation bracket but couldn’t seal the deal against one of the state’s top teams.
Facing Douglas (which was ranked No. 1 in 3A for the entire regular season) for third place in 3A, Powell took two of the first three sets before losing Dent to a knee injury during the first point of the fourth set.
During her approach to the net Dent jumped towards the outside to reach a long set and came down awkwardly, Smith said. Dent’s knee went out but the severity of the injury is not yet known.
Dent had 15 kills against the Bearcats before sustaining her injury. Harrington and junior Tori Sleep got six kills apiece to tie for second on the team during the match.
The Panthers couldn’t overcome the loss of their offensive leader and dropped the final two sets, giving Douglas the victory and dropping Powell out of the top three.
“But I could not have been prouder of the girls,” Smith said. “They gave it their all. They put everything they had into it.”
Powell, who earned a bye in the consolation bracket by winning the quarterfinal game against Rawlins, beat Newcastle in the consolation semis 25-27, 25-12, 15-25, 32-30, 15-9.
McKearney had her strongest game of the weekend by recording 14 kills and two blocks. Ebersberger had her usual strong defensive outing with 29 digs but also added two aces on 20-for-20 serving.
Dent again led the team in kills with 21, as well as digs with 30.
Senior setter Kadi Cooley triggered the Panthers offense with 43 assists.