The epic 17-25, 25-18, 22-25, 26-24, 15-13 victory came after Powell overcame 1-0 and 2-1 deficits and a miscue by the scorer’s table that almost prolonged the evening after the Panthers scored the match point.
“It was great to see the team push through and not let any deficit determine the final outcome of the match,” said head coach Cindi Smith.
Sophomore Anissa Warner, who has split time between JV and varsity this season, thinks the win was a big statement for Powell.
“We kind of have that reputation for being the team that can’t really finish,” she said. “But we decided this was going to change everybody’s mind.”
Powell is now 23-7 overall and 5-1 in the West, tying them with the Jackson Broncs, who beat Cody and Lander Saturday. The tie was broken Monday morning by way of coin flip. Powell will take the Northwest’s No. 2 seed into this weekend’s regional tournament in Cody.
“It meant a lot to beat Cody,” said freshman outside hitter Kalina Smith. “Not only because they are our rival school but we needed to win this game to possibly win the conference and get a good seed for regionals.”
Smith led the Panthers with 19 kills. She also added 15 digs and nine assists and two aces.
Junior libero Jenni Ebersberger had 25 digs, successfully passed 37 of 39 Cody serves and added two aces of her own. Sophomore setter Breanna Donarski had a team-high 19 assists to go with 18 digs and three aces.
With Powell up 14-13 in the fifth set, a Cody player passed the ball into her own net and watched as it fell to the floor. The Panthers began celebrating as if they had just won the match — which they had, although the scoreboard just didn’t show it.
Between the point that put Powell up 14-13 and the final point, the scoreboard changed to read 14-14, much to the chagrin of Powell’s bench and the contingent of Panther faithful who traveled to support the team away from home.
After a lengthy official’s timeout during which Smith compared her scorebook to that of the official scorekeeper’s, the issue was resolved and the Panthers’ victory was confirmed.
The Panthers huddled together on the court during the timeout and focused as if the match was going to continue.
“I know we just had a lot of confidence and we knew we were going to get the next point,” said team captain Ebersberger.
Senior captain Tori Sleep said the team would not be deterred by the mix-up.
“We just had to stay focused because we weren’t going to let that kick us off our flow,” she said.
Neither a first-set loss in which Powell looked rattled, nor a rowdy, calculatedly loud Cody student section could kick the Panthers off their flow, either.
Ebersberger said the team played too tight in the first set, but started to feel comfortable by the end of the first set.
“We didn’t come out strong as we could, but we always find a way,” Sleep added.
Armed with game programs that list Powell’s roster and boisterous chants like “There’s a net there!” following service errors, the Broncs’ fans did their best to impact the game.
Powell’s veterans said they were used to the hostile atmosphere and did their best to tune the crowd out.
“I think by now we’re kind of used to that,” Ebersberger said. “They’re barking at you like animals. It’s different but as you get your nerves out you just relax.”
Warner entered the game in the second set to increase Powell’s net presence.
“It really meant a lot to me that my coach thought I had the ability to step up,” Warner said.
Warner responded to the vote of confidence with three kills and two solo blocks, and her presence altered the shots she didn’t block enough to make it easier for Powell’s back row to come up with the dig.
“I just wanted to help my back line and hopefully stop their team,” Warner said.
Sleep was second on the team with 11 kills and third with four assists.
Senior Shawnea Harrington had four kills.
Junior Taylor Woodward led the Panthers with two solo blocks and one assist. Smith had two solo blocks.
Junior Makaila Moore again came in and provided consistent serving for the Panthers. Moore was nine-for-nine in service attempts.
Powell will begin 3A West regional tournament play at 12:30 p.m. Friday against Lyman, the Southwest’s No. 3 seed.
“We have to get our first two wins in regionals to punch our ticket to state,” Sleep said. “Then we need to focus on winning regionals.”
Coach Smith said her team is playing well as the postseason starts.
“We have showed a lot of growth throughout the season and are ready for tournament time,” Smith said.
Ebersberger said she thinks the team will carry over the confidence from Thursday’s game back into Cody this Friday.
“I think we definitely have the capability to win regionals,” Ebersberger said. “If we just play like we should I think we’ll win.”