Panthers look for redemption on the court
Falls sports in Middle Park are underway and the East Grand volleyball squad is on the hunt for redemption.
The 2016 volleyball season was a banner year for the ladies of Middle Park. The Panthers dominated opponents on the court throughout the fall. The junior varsity squad went undefeated on the season while the varsity girls lost only a single match during regular season play. The Panthers went on to sweep the Regional Tournament but went down in the State Championships with a heartbreaking first round loss. The lady Panthers went on to eventually secure a fifth place finish at the state tournament.
Head Volleyball Coach Kate Lapham said the season has been going very well so far and highlighted the marked increase in participating students this fall. So far this season Middle Park has 37 girls on the volleyball team.
“That is a significant increase from the last two seasons,” Lapham said. “A lot of that comes from new freshman players. Numbers wise it has been awesome to have full teams for JV and C-Team. We haven’t had that before.”
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Unfortunately for the Panthers this year’s varsity roster has some significant changes from last year’s dominate squad, though Coach Lapham says she still expects big things from the young ladies.
“We have had some struggles with injuries,” Coach Lapham said. “Our starting setter [Layne Neiberger] tore her achilles in track and probably will not be viable for a while; maybe late October to sometime just before playoffs.”
Covering the starting setter’s position this year on the team will be senior Harley Phillips, who served as the rightside hitter, or Opposite, for the Panthers last year.
“One of the team’s goals is to be in the here and now,” Coach Lapham said. “To realize this is a different team than last year and we need to have different expectations. We will win in a different way.”
Lapham referred to this year’s team as being “raw” and said the young ladies were competitive because of their grit and tenacity.
“There is not as much finesse this year,” Lapham said. “The way they will play this year, it won’t be pretty all the time. It will have to be gritty.”
The Panther squad got back into action in late August with a hard fought loss to Faith Christian on the 26. The Panthers entered the fall season ranked sixth in the state while their opponents were ranked eighth.
The Panthers fell to the Eagles after five sets. The ladies struggled to find their sea legs during the first set and went down 14-25. They rebounded for the second set defeating the lady Eagles 25-18. The third set was a close contest that saw the Panthers fall to the Eagles 23-25. Middle Park’s student athletes stayed alive with a win in the fourth set 25-22 but couldn’t close things out in the fifth, which ened 10-15 in favor of Faith Christian.
“I think the girls really surprised themselves,” Coach Lapham said. “They surprised themselves with how well they competed; which was kind of a relief. It was a good way to start the season. For the rest of the season I just want to see them play with that effort and that never give up attitude. I think that will take us far, the finesse will come later.”
The Panthers headed over Trail Ridge Road Tuesday to take on the Estes Park Bobcats. On Thursday they will take to the court at home for a contest against County rivals West Grand. The action continues Friday evening with a contest against SkyView Academy.
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