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Volleyball: Panther spikers advance in postseason play

by Will Bublitz
Sky-Hi Daily News
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
ALL | Sky-Hi Daily News

Middle Park High’s volleyball team passed the first crucial test of postseason play by winning Tuesday’s district pigtail match against St. Mary’s Academy.

The victory allows the Lady Panthers to advance to district pool play Thursday at Holy Family High School in Broomfield.

“Congratulations Panthers. We’re moving on,” said coach Kris Newberry.

Tuesday’s win over St. Mary’s was not a smooth victory parade by Middle Park’s spikers. They had to earn it by going to four games with scores of 25-20, 24-26, 25-16 and 25-6.

“We had a problem with consistency,” Newberry said. “We had flashes of brilliance, but then we’d let down our guard. I think part of the problem was due to us working so hard the past couple of weeks on our setters and hitters which caused our passing to suffer as a result.”

The inconsistency was apparent in the match’s first game as Middle Park took an initial three-point lead, then allowed St. Mary’s to catch up and pass them by a couple of points. Rallying, the Lady Panthers came back strongly to retake the lead by eight points, but then let the Wildcats narrow the gap before making a final spurt to win it 25-20.

“We got off to a slow start because we were a little nervous and the adrenaline was flowing,” Newberry said. “But once we got going, we ran the score up, but then kept letting them climb back in.”

Despite winning the first game, the Lady Panthers never really got their power game going. It was evident in the match’s second game as both teams stayed close with the lead being traded back and forth.

Finally taking a three-point lead late in the second game, it looked like Middle Park’s hitters would pull off another win. However, their focus slipped and once again St. Mary’s was allowed to not only catch up but then take a three-point lead. The Lady Panthers battled back, but not enough to prevent a 26-24 win by the Wildcats.

“In that second game, passing and service-receive errors really plagued us,” Newberry said. “St. Mary’s kept plugging away and took it away from us.”

Fortunately, the shock of that loss acted like a cold shower for Middle Park’s players who finally woke up, realizing that if they did not stay focussed, their playoff chances would be over.

As the third match opened, the Wildcats attacked, scoring the first couple of points. But that was the last time the Lady Panthers allowed them to have the lead. Turning on the power, Middle Park’s hitters began slamming point after point over the net to move steadily to a 25-16 victory.

“After allowing those initial two points, we were in control of the rest of the game,” Newberry said.

Playing at the top of their abilities, Middle Park’s spikers carried the momentum of their third-game win into the match’s fourth and final game. They showed no mercy as they relentlessly steamrolled over St. Mary’s to win by a lopsided score of 25-6.

“In that final game, our Lady Panthers put the hammer down,” Newberry said. “We ran St. Mary’s out of our house behind a couple of great serving streaks by Nina Palm who served eight points and Elsa Krieg who served nine straight points.”

Middle Park’s stats were impressive for what was their final home match of the year.

Perfect serving was earned by Hannah Brinkmann who made 18 serves with two aces while Cassie Strang posted eight serves with no errors. Shannan Stensvad made 16 serves with four aces. Elsa Krieg earned two aces and Anna Conrad made one.

Brinkmann also led the offense with 15 attacks plus nine kills. She was followed by Krieg with five attacks and 10 kills; Amelia Nicol, six attacks and five kills; Conrad, Stensvad and Quincey Pedersen, two kills each; and Palm and Strang, one kill each from the back row.

Once again, Palm demonstrated her skill on the defense by racking up an impressive 16 digs, followed by Conrad with 12. Stensvad earned 10 while Krieg had six. Brinkmann and Strang made five digs apiece.

In blocking, Krieg made two while Nicol earned one. Strang led in assists with 13, followed by Conrad with 10, Pedersen with four, and Stensvad and Mallory Nutting with one each.

“Hannah Brinkmann was our service-receive machine,” Newberry said. “She seemed to be the target because she made 22 service receives and did so without an error.”

Having won Tuesday’s district pigtail match, Middle Park’s volleyball team now advances to pool play Thursday at Broomfield. They are scheduled to first play the host Holy Family team, followed by matches against either Peak to Peak or Bishop Machebeuf.

The top two finishers in Thursday’s pool play will then advance to the district finals which will be played Saturday at Kent Denver High School. Out of that competition, the top three finishers will earn a berth to the regionals.

“For Thursday’s matches, our hope is that our girls go into them physically and mentally prepared to play hard from the start,” Newberry said. “We have to stay mentally up even after we commit errors. We have to play strong all the time. We can’t play tentatively if we’re going to win and advance to the finals.”


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