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Panther volleyball sweeps 2A champs

Powell junior Delaney Dent serves in the first set of the Panthers’ sweep of the Lovell Bulldogs Tuesday night. Powell junior Delaney Dent serves in the first set of the Panthers’ sweep of the Lovell Bulldogs Tuesday night. Tribune photo by Dante Geoffrey

The Powell Panthers volleyball team knocked off the defending Class 2A state champions Tuesday night in Powell.

Lovell (8-4) made it interesting in the match’s first set, before going quietly into the night as Powell secured a 26-24, 25-12, 25-14 victory.

The Panthers almost squandered the first set when they watched a 16-10 lead turn into a 20-23 deficit.

But Powell didn’t give up. The home team battled with the help of their fans, who traded loud chants with the student section from Lovell.

“The student body did a great job bringing energy into the gym,” said head coach Cindi Smith.

The Panthers took that energy and turned it in to points.

Senior outside hitter Tori Sleep had two kills late in the first set, including the game-winner that completed the Panther-comeback that shouldn’t have been necessary.

“Nerves were a factor in set one but the girls continued to show their drive and determination, coming back to take the set,” Smith said.

The Panthers, infused with energy from their dramatic first-set win, jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the second set, and never gave the Bulldogs a chance to get back in the game.

The third set started with some uncertainty for the Panthers. Lovell matched them point-for-point and the teams were tied at seven before Powell pulled away.

A 15-3 run gave Powell a commanding 22-10 lead and a quick timeout stopped a mini three-point run by the Bulldogs. Freshman outside hitter Kalina Smith hit a kill from the right side on the next play to seal Powell’s victory.

Coach Smith said the Panthers knew they would have to play quality volleyball to beat a strong Bulldogs team.

“We always need to step out ready to play to our fullest potential no matter who we are playing,” Smith said. “There is so much momentum in volleyball, we can’t overlook any team.”

Kalina Smith led the team with 10 kills. Sleep was second with seven and junior Megan Wagner and senior Cassidi Partridge tied with three each.

While the offense didn’t generate a lot of kills, the Panthers played steady volleyball behind consistent serving. Powell made 68 of 72 serves (94.4 percent) in the match.

Sophomore Breanna Donarski was a perfect 19-for-19, just ahead of junior Kelsey Marchant’s 18-for-18. Junior libero Jenni Ebersberger was 11-for-11 and junior Makaila Moore was four-for-four.

Ebersberger also led the team in digs, with 26. Marchant was second with 18, Smith had 10 and junior Delaney Dent had seven.

The front-row defense, anchored by Partridge, was active and forced the Bulldog attackers to hit over or around the block, allowing Powell’s back row to get set and make better passes as the Panthers transitioned to offense.

The Panthers travel to Rawlins this weekend for a two-day tournament Friday and Saturday.

“It will be a good opportunity for us to see 3A teams throughout the state,” Smith said.

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