The Lady Panthers took the court against Worland Thursday night looking to atone for a five-set loss to the Lady Warriors last month, and they started off with a come-from-behind 25-22 win in the first set. Passing problems early in the game allowed Worland to take the lead, but the Lady Panthers refused to fold and took a 21-20 lead late in the game. Worland retook the lead. Powell scored the last four points behind Kadi Cooley’s serve, including one after a diving dig by freshman libero Kelsey Marchant set up a back-line kill by Becky Dent.
The teams battled evenly through the first half of game two, but Powell was unable to answer a Worland run midway through the set, and the Lady Warriors evened the match at one with a 25-17 win.
But the Lady Panthers stepped up and dominated game three. Aggressive serving and steady play on the back line gave Powell the early lead and they coasted to a 25-12 win. Game point came on a stuff block by Dent and Abby Ebersberger.
This time it was the Lady Warrior’s turn to step up, and they led through the early going. Powell took a time out down 13-9, and then responded with a 6-1 run to take a 15-14 lead behind Morgan McCray’s serve. Worland tied the match at 16, but the Powell girls took the lead and held off a late rally by the Lady Warriors for a 25-22 win. Fittingly, match point came on senior Kendra Ostrom’s final kill before the home crowd.
The match was in contrast to the last Powell/Worland meeting, which the Lady Panthers lost after winning the first two sets, and coach Cindi Smith said that made this win especially important.
“It was good for us to come back and finish against Worland this time,” Smith said.
Powell’s effectiveness from the service line played a big part in the win. The team served with 93 percent accuracy, led by McCray, who was 19 for 19. Dent was also perfect on 17 serves and Ebersberger was nine for nine. The three were not only accurate, but aggressive, as both Dent and McCray served four aces and Ebersberger two. Tori Sleep was almost as accurate with her serves, putting 19 of 20 in play.
Dent had a big night for Powell, leading the team in kills with 13, blocks with three solos and one assist, and digs with 21. Ostrom was right behind her, with eight kills, 19 digs, two solo blocks and one block assist.
Ebersberger and Sleep each contributed three kills and Cassidi Partridge also contributed two blocks and an assist.
Saturday, the Lady Panthers traveled to Cody, and, as they did in their earlier meeting with the Fillies, lost in three games. Unlike the first match, though, the Lady Panthers put up a stiff challenge to Cody, and were in a position to win two of the sets before Cody pulled them out.
It didn’t look that way at first, as the Lady Panthers had trouble early handling Cody’s aggressive serve. The Fillies took charge early and built a big lead. Powell got on track late with a couple of runs, but the Fillies coasted to a 25-16 win.
In game two, though, the Lady Panthers found their game and after trading leads with the Fillies early, they built a small lead and held it until Cody tied the set at 20. Cody’s strong service game took it from there and the Fillies took a 25-20 win to lead the match 2-0.
Again, the Lady Panthers refused to fold, and played Cody even up throughout the game. Once again, they held a lead late, but this time Cody’s net attack was the difference and the match ended with a 25-22 win.
Despite the loss, Smith said the Lady Panthers’ play was a positive sign.
“In the first game it took time to adjust to their serve, but after that we played well,” Smith said. “There are a few more things we can improve so we can pull out those last three points.”
McCray was again the leading server for the match, hitting accurately on all 12 of her serves and recording one ace. Marchant, who was playing only her second week on the varsity, was eight for eight and served two aces. Ostrom was seven for seven and Sleep hit three aces.
Ostrom led in both kills with nine and digs with 13. Dent made seven kills and four blocks. Cooley made eight digs and Marchant seven and Sleep had two blocks.
This week the Lady Panthers will travel to Lander for the regional tournament. As the number three seed from the northwest, they will take on the Mountain View Buffaloes in the first round. A win in that match would likely give them a rematch with Cody, who opens with Lyman. On the other side of the bracket, Star Valley takes on Jackson and Lander meets Pinedale. Four teams will qualify for state competition in the double-elimination tournament.
Game time for Powell’s opening game is 2 p.m. Friday. Semi-final matches are scheduled to be played later Friday, beginning at 5 p.m.
Consolation play will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday and consolation semi-finals will follow beginning at noon. The match for third place is scheduled for 4 p.m and the championship match begns at 5:30.