Volleyball: Top Metro squads squeak by Middle Park | SkyHiNews.com

Volleyball: Top Metro squads squeak by Middle Park

Middle Park High School's Shannan Stensvad (6) and Elsa Krieg go up for a block during Monday night's match against Holy Family. (Photo by Byron Hetzler)
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Taking on the two top-ranked teams in the Metro League, Middle Park High’s volleyball team was forced to put those matches in the “loss” category.

On Saturday, Sept. 29, the Lady Panthers fell to No. 1 Colorado Academy in a hard fought, five-game match. Then on Monday, Oct. 1, Middle Park’s spikers suffered a defeat on their home court to Holy Family, the Metro League’s No. 2 team.

“We’re a young team,” coach Kris Newberry said. “We learned that we’ve got to be more disciplined and mentally tough for the rest of our league matches.”

Traveling to Colorado Academy, the Lady Panthers got their match off to a great start with a 25-21 win but then lost in the second game 17-25.

Recovering, Middle Park’s hitters smashed their way to a victory in the third game by the score of 25-19. However, they not only failed to keep the momentum going but collapsed in the fourth game to fall 12-25.

The seesaw battle finally ended in the fifth game with the Lady Panthers losing a close 14-16 game to Colorado Academy.

“Our girls raised the level of their play in all of the games except the fourth, where we had a letdown,” Newberry said. “Even though it ended in a heartbreaker for us, we walked out of that gym a better team than when we walked in.”

Newberry attributed the “letdown” in the fourth game to the players being too cautious and not hitting the ball hard.

“It was a high-powered offensive match on both sides,” she said. “In that fourth game, we played tentatively and began tipping the ball, which does not work against a team like Colorado Academy. We need to go back to what we do best, and that’s being a power team.”

Newberry praised the team’s improved serving. Jessica Waldron earned three aces, Nina Palm and Shannan Stensvad made two each, and Anna Conrad one.

The team’s attack-kill ratio also tells a story. Conrad made 29 attacks with 10 kills; Elsa Krieg, 27 attacks with seven kills; Hannah Brinkmann, 25 attacks with five kills; and Amelia Nicol, 12 attacks with five kills.

“Nina Palm had an amazing game, making 31 digs,” Newberry said. “She kept digging, digging, digging to shut down two of Colorado Academy’s top hitters. When a ball came over the net, Nina was on it.”

Also receiving praise was Waldron, the team’s hard-working setter.

“Jessica did a very good job of mixing it up,” Newberry said. “She got the ball to several different players during that match.”

In Monday’s match in Middle Park High’s gym, the Lady Panthers took on the Tigers of Holy Family, who are currently ranked second in the league with only one season loss. Despite a comeback effort, Middle Park fell in another five-game match.

“We were hoping our home court would serve us well, but we just couldn’t get going in a couple of the games,” Newberry said.

The Lady Panthers won the opening game 25-22, but then fell hard in the next two 12-25 and 14-25. What threw them off their stride was the illness of a key player that became apparent in the middle of the match.

“We tried to make a lot of adjustments around our ill player, but we just didn’t do it well,” Newberry said.

After losing those two games, Middle Park’s players realized they had to refocus or they were going to lose the match badly.

“Under normal circumstances, we’re a slow-starting team,” Newberry said. “By the fourth game, everyone realized we had to step up our play or we were going to lose at home.”

Middle Park came back to win the fourth game 25-19.

“We won that game because of our determination,” Newberry said. “And we were up 22-21 in the fifth, but we could not finish and lost it 22-25. We needed that killer instinct to put that game away, but we didn’t have it.”

Krieg led in kills with nine on 23 attacks. Brinkmann was next with six kills on 24 attacks. Stensvad and Nicol earned five kills apiece, while Conrad made three.

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