Panthers end regular season on sour note
PACKWOOD – The Pekin Panthers’ volleyball team ran into some tough luck to end the regular season.
On Oct. 4, the Panthers defeated the Columbus Community Wildcats in dramatic fashion, coming from behind to snatch a 3-2 victory from the claws of defeat. The win marked the Panthers’ third in four games. They seemed to have built a nice head of steam leading into the season’s home stretch.
Sadly, ever since their win in game five last Tuesday night, the Panthers have lost 12 straight games and five straight matches to end the regular season. The trouble began Thursday in Riverside when the Highland Huskies outscored the Panthers 75-44 in their three-game sweep.
The Panthers showed flashes of brilliance at the Mt. Pleasant Tournament Saturday, but could not string enough points together to grab a win. Each opponent swept the Panthers 2-0, starting with the host school (25-20, 25-18), then Holy Trinity Catholic (25-8, 25-10) and finally Burlington-Notre Dame (25-8, 25-19).
The Panthers hoped to bounce back from those defeats Tuesday against an Iowa Mennonite School that had struggled for most of the year. To top it off, the match was extra emotional because the Panthers were honoring their senior players: Aspen Clark, Kaitlyn Conger, Gabi Rutherford and Hazel Ward. Pekin played IMS tight for the first two games but ultimately lost in three.
Mt. Pleasant tourney
Panther head coach Ken Hutchinson said his girls were sluggish Saturday and played with low energy.
“We had homecoming the night before and you could tell,” he said. “It’s too bad because we had been playing with much more energy coming into Saturday. We only committed four hitting/serving errors against Mt. Pleasant. If we could have played with a little more energy, we could have won the first match of the day, which would have set a different tone to start the morning. I was happy with our energy and communication in the last set of the day against Burlington-Notre Dame.”
In the tournament, Maci Gambell led the team with 11 kills and 22 digs. Haley Gambell had eight kills, 20 assists and 26 digs. Whitney Johnson led the team in digs with 32 digs. Kaitlyn Conger added seven kills.
Senior night against IMS
The Panthers played IMS close in the first two games, forcing the visitors to go beyond the normal 25 points to win them. Pekin fell 27-25 in the first game and 26-24 in the second. By the third game, the Panthers had run out of gas as they fell 25-14.
Haley Gambell led the team with seven kills and no errors. She finished with a 9-10 serving performance, two aces and a block. Maci Gambell had six kills to go with 10-11 serving, three aces and 18 digs. Ellie Ledger had five kills, four digs, a block and went 6-7 from the service line. Conger had two kills and two digs.
The Panthers end the regular season with a record of 10-17.