Panthers look to seniors on volleyball court

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With nine seniors on the roster this fall, there is an air of optimism around the Powell High School volleyball team ahead of Friday’s season opener at the Riverton Invite.

Eight of those nine seniors are part of 18 returnees from last season, which saw the Lady Panthers’ varsity squad win the Riverton tournament and the junior varsity finish 27-1-1 and win a conference championship;  seven of the PHS seniors have played together since elementary school.

“Our senior leaders from last year will be Hartly Thorington, Aubrie Stenerson, Rachel Bonander, Natalie Ostermiller, and Jazlyn Haney, all of which played all season, along with Ashtyn Heny, Devon Curtis and Jasmyne Lensegrav getting some playing time towards the middle and end of the season,” Powell coach Randi Bonander said. “And our new [senior from California], Becky McConahay, brings a variety of front-row skills to our team, which will just make us that much more consistent.”

Bonander also said junior Gabi Metzler will be in the mix, not only as a second varsity setter but also as the starting setter on the junior varsity team.

After opening the season Friday and Saturday at the Riverton Invite, the Panthers then head to Thermopolis on Tuesday, Aug. 28 and to the Montana/Wyoming Border War in Cody Aug. 31 and Sept. 1. Powell will play at the Rawlins Invite Sept. 7-8 and head to Lander Valley on Sept. 14. The Lady Panthers will then make their home debut on Sept. 15 against Worland.

Other home matches for the Panthers include hosting Cody on Sept. 25, Lander Valley on Oct. 11 and Lovell on Oct. 18. The Class 3A West regional tournament is set for Oct. 26-27 at Mountain View, with the state tournament set for Nov. 1-3 at Casper.

“My coaching philosophy is that I am a lifelong learner, and every year I am reading and attending coaches’ clinics to improve my abilities,” coach Bonander said. “All the best coaches do this. They are never satisfied with a championship because there is always something that can be improved. I also believe in focusing on the controllables: I can’t control what other teams do, but I can make sure that every practice we are working to improve all parts of our game. If we do that all season long with an ‘Attitude of Gratitude,’ we will be successful as a team, [as a] program and in life.”

With nine seniors on this year’s roster, coach Bonander is looking for her junior varsity and freshmen players to grow this fall as those players prepare for the eventual jump to varsity.

“The great thing about the younger girls on JV is they are so coachable and willing to improve for the betterment of the team as a whole,” Bonander said. “JV coach Tasha Miller will be grooming the juniors and sophomores for next year due to the fact we will lose nine seniors.”

Bonander also had words of praise for the Panthers’ new freshman coach, Mackenzie Graft.

Graft “is really in tune with helping build the program by concentrating on skills and consistency vs. winning, along with growing the freshmen into multi-skill volleyball players for the future,” coach Bonander said. “I have no doubt the winning will come with the freshmen as they build their skills throughout the season.”

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