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Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 17, 2018

Pekin sweeps Mediapolis in historic volleyball upset

By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Sep 13, 2017

Pekin delivered a stunning knockout blow to volleyball powerhouse Mediapolis Thursday night. Mediapolis had not lost a conference match in more than a decade.

Not only did the Panthers win the match, they swept the Bulldogs 3-0. The Panthers’ record stands at 10-4.

Pekin came out swinging and passing with confidence. After quickly falling behind 2-0 in the first set, Pekin answered with a 6-2 run and used that momentum to take the first set 25-17.

After that, Mediapolis regrouped for the second set, but Pekin again came out swinging.

“I was impressed with our serve receive and confidence offensively to run multiple sets,” said Pekin coach Ken Hutchinson. “We were able to move the ball around and run some quick sets, and that in turn put Mediapolis back on their heels.”

Pekin won the back-and-forth set 25-23.

In the third set, Mediapolis came out with a new sense of confidence. The Bulldogs took an early 6-2 lead.

Coach Hutchinson used both of his timeouts early in the set to clam his players after falling behind 21-12.

“At that point, I didn’t care about the score. We run drills all the time in practice that are nearly no-win situations; at that point, I just want to see who will compete and who will quit,” he said.

There was no quit in those Panthers. They were able to get a side out and then went on a 13-2 run to close out the third set and complete a 3-0 sweep against a seemingly invincible foe.

“The win was awesome, but what was even more satisfying was our no-quit mentality,” said the coach. “That’s what I was most proud of in our team!”

Maci Gambell had eight kills, 10 digs and was 9 of 10 in serving. Haley Gambell had nine kills, 15 digs and eight assists. Ellie Ledger and Faith Oostra each added five kills and three blocks. Kennedy Coleman contributed nine assists, eight digs and 9-10 serving with two aces. Whitney Johnson served 15-16 for the match, including a perfect service performance in the final set comeback. She also had eight digs.


Pekin defeats Louisa-Muscatine

Two days before their historic win over Mediapolis, the Panthers made quick work of Louisa-Muscatine, defeating the Falcons in three sets, 25-16, 25-12 and 25-11.

The Panthers struggled with their serve receive early on, allowing L-M to keep the opening set tight. The score was 14-14 in the opening set when Pekin went on a 11-2 run to end the set.

“Once we started reacting quicker off the serve and getting up a solid serve receive pass, our offense came alive,” Hutchinson said. “We gave up four aces in the opening set; that’s the part of our game we must improve the most.”

After the opening set, the Panthers’ offense woke up. They ended the night with 37 kills on 35 assists. They also dropped in 12 aces and served 66-71 (93 percent) on the night.

The statistical leaders were: Maci Gambell – 14 kills, eight digs; Haley Gambell – eight kills, 16 assists, 14 digs; Ellie Ledger – eight kills, two blocks; Faith Oostra - five kills; Kennedy Coleman - 16 assists; and Whitney Johnson - nine digs, 10-10 serves with two aces.


Panthers down Lone Tree in conference opener

Pekin opened its conference season Aug. 31 with a 3-0 win at home vs. Lone Tree. The Panthers started hot, with early kills from outside hitter Haley Gambell and middle hitter Ellie Ledger. After a 10-3 start, Lone Tree started to dig the ball and Pekin struggled with some off sets.

“We are hitting the ball as good as any team around when we pick it clean and set our hitters up tight to the net,” noted Hutchinson.

Game 2 was much like Game 1, many unforced errors by the Panthers that kept Lone Tree in the game. Pekin won those by scores of 25-20 and 25-15, respectively. The Panthers turned up the heat in Game 3 and took a decisive 25-12 win to finish the night.

The leaders were: Maci Gambell - 12 kills, 16-17 serves (three aces); Haley Gambell - seven kills, 10-11 serves, 15 digs and 13 assists; Ellie Ledger - nine kills and two blocks; Faith Oostra - five kills; Whitney Johnson - 11 digs; and Kennedy Coleman - 12 assists.

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