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Inspired Panther volleyball falls shy

Volleyball talent beats Panthers’ spirit 


Great Bend Panther sparkplugs Jenna Mauler and Sydney Unruh played their typical spectacular defensive match. Rachel Panzer, Alyssa Herter, Olivia Mull and Brynn Boxberger delivered winning plays.

But No. 7-state ranked Goddard High and 6A Hutchinson High powered past the Panthers in a pair of hard-fought three-set matches at Great Bend. The Panthers were inspired by enthusiastic support from the Panther football team.

Goddard (18-2) has swept 18 consecutive matches after beating Great Bend 19-25, 25-19, 25-17 and Hutchinson High 25-13, 13-25, 25-20. Hutchinson High is 11-8.

The Panthers (8-3) fizzled after playing superbly in the first set of both matches. Great Bend played solid defense all night, but mixed timely passing, setting and hitting in the first set of each match.

“We played great and served aggressively those first sets,” said Great Bend coach Shelly Duvall. “When we serve with confidence, we’re a competitive team. We played really good defense and played tough-minded volleyball. I never question our effort. It’s always there. Once we started missing serves,  it shuts down our demeanor. We worked hard to get the serve back. We missed momentum serves. The moment we needed them, we’d miss one.”

However, the Panthers dug dug deficits in second and third sets of both matches. After playing mostly error-free volleyball, the Panthers contributed errors in addition to the hitting prowess of Goddard and Hutchinson.

“We can beat teams, but we made our own mistakes,” Duvall said. “We knew we’d go against big teams tonight. It’s a whole different ballgame tonight.”

GODDARD MATCH —Herter sparked the Panthers’ early run with several winning serves and winners at the net. Mauler and Sydney Unruh delivered their defensive magic. Mauler and Mull hit winners for a 22-18 lead. Boxberger hit an assist from Herter for a 23-18 lead. Mauler hit the game-winning set point.

The second set was tied 15-15 when Goddard’s Sydney Morrow swung the momentum. Morrow, Cydney Carter and Abbie Medbery hit winners and Kade Hackerott closed out the match.

HUTCHINSON MATCH — An instant replay showed Herter and Mull hitting winners for a 9-9 tie when Panzer served three consecutive serves. Panzer and Mull closed out the first set, 25-17.

But once Hutchinson’s twin towers Habbie Posch and Tina Robertson got cranked up, the Panthers were in trouble. The Salthawks started to dominate play at the net.

Johnson, Mull and Mauler hit winners for a 21-21 tie. But Robertson closed out the match with three consecutive winners that the Panthers were unable to return for a 25-21 victory.