It worked. The Lady Panthers stepped back out on the court, blasted their way to a double-digit lead and evened the match at 2-2 with a 25-15 win. They carried that momentum into game five and ended it quickly with a 15-5 win for the …
Lady Panthers take their third-straight titleIt looked a little shaky for a while Saturday night, but when the last whistle sounded, the Powell Lady Panthers had successfully extended their streak of regional volleyball titles to three with a five-set win over a tough Mountain View team.After winning the first set 25-17, the Lady Panthers gave up the next two games, 22-25 and 23-25, and found themselves one game short of finishing second as they gathered at the water cooler before game four. Showing no signs of panic, though, the girls calmly discussed what they needed to do, and heard a quick pep talk from a former teammate, Erica Woodward, who ran across the gym to offer encouragement.
It worked. The Lady Panthers stepped back out on the court, blasted their way to a double-digit lead and evened the match at 2-2 with a 25-15 win. They carried that momentum into game five and ended it quickly with a 15-5 win for the match.
“We adjusted a little on defense,” said Coach Cindi Smith, “but the girls just pulled together and made it work.”
The win sends the Lady Panthers to the state tournament, where they will begin defense of their state title Thursday against Buffalo. Cody defeated Pinedale in four games to take third.
Powell opened the tournament against a Lyman team that put up a ferocious defense in game one, blocking effectively to stay with the Lady Panthers all the way. The Lady Eagles came back from a 20-18 deficit late in the set to tie the score at 21 before a slam by Savannah Donarski regained the lead. Hannah Pollart scored two straight with a spike and a soft hit into an open area before Lyman regained the serve down by two, but the game went to Powell when the Lady Eagles' serve went into the net.
“It was good to get a challenge like that in the first game,” Smith said. “It got us started playing hard.”
The rest of the match was all Powell as the Lady Panthers found their groove and coasted to wins of 25-7 and 25-10.
In the semi-final contest, Powell faced off against Pinedale, and rolled to a 25-6 first-round win over the Lady Wranglers, upset winners over Worland in the first round. The Lady Panthers used a strategy of short serves coupled with strong net play by the front line for the win, and although the Lady Wranglers adjusted in the next two sets, Powell was never threatened and took both sets, 25-15, 25-17 to roll into the finals.
The win set up the dual with Mountain View, the top team from the south. The Lady Buffaloes had escaped a near upset by Lander in a five-set match in round one, and swept Cody in the semi-finals to gain momentum going into the final match.
In game one, the Lady Buffaloes matched Powell point for point in the early going. But with the score tied at 15, the Lady Panthers gained a side-out and turned up their power game. Donarski's serve, coupled with power hits by Kami Cooley and Pollart, along with effective blocking from Olivia Rogers and Randi Asay built a six-point lead before Mountain View stopped the streak. The Lady Buffaloes were unable to capitalize, though, and Powell regained the serve. A block by Rogers and Kayla Ando put the Lady Panthers at 24, and Rogers put the game away with a solo block for game point and the 25-17 win.
In game two, though, the Lady Panthers lost their rhythm, and fell behind early. Down ll-7, they began a comeback and took the lead at 18-17, but couldn't hold it. With Mountain View leading 23-22, Powell committed a net foul, and on the next rally, Mountain View took game point on an illegal hit by Powell.
The pattern was repeated in game three, with Powell falling behind early before reeling off five straight points, to lead 18-15. Mountain View fought back, finding a hole in the middle of the Powell defense and taking advantage of uncharacteristic Powell miscues to tie the game at 20, then outscored the Lady Panthers 5-3 for the win.
After the visit to the water cooler, though, the Lady Panther brought their A game back to the court. A coordinated team attack built a 16-5 lead and they coasted to the 25-15 win, evening the match at 2 games each on a slam by Pollart.
The final game ended quickly and without drama as the Lady Panthers dominated the match from the beginning both offensively and defensively for a 15-5 win and the match.
Smith credited the comeback to her players' experience and to strong senior leadership, and praised the way they pulled together during the match.
“They complement each other and support each other,” Smith said.
As a team, the Lady Panthers served with 90-percent accuracy, led by Donarski, who was 95 percent accurate with seven aces. Her serves sparked several runs for the Lady Panthers during the tournament. Ando and Rogers both served with 93-percent accuracy and scored six and three aces, respectively. Smith credited all three with placing serves in zones that disrupted the opponents' offense.
Pollart led the team in kills with 51.
The Lady Panthers are now focused on state competition, which begins Thursday when they take on Buffalo in the first round. A win would put them into the semi-finals against either Cody or Rawlins on Friday. Wheatland, the top seed from the east will play on the other side of the bracket.
The Lady Panthers have not played Buffalo or Rawlins during the season, but Smith said that doesn't concern her or her team.