BY JIM MISUNAS
Great Bend's volleyball team (18-1) is a perfect example of teamwork sweeping four matches at Saturday's Great Bend Volleyball Invitational.
Cassie Ellegood, Kara Feist, Kya Behr and Makenzie Premer spark the attack.
Behr and Sadie Spray set up the hitters with pin-point assists.
Defensive wizards Macy Nachtigal, Lauryn Davis, Paige Thexton and Spray key the defense and passing.
Key reserves Emilee Hall and Denver Ringo spell the starters.
Great Bend (18-1) swept four matches to capture Saturday's Great Bend Volleyball Invitational. Great Bend defeated runner-up Hutchinson (9-19), 25-23, 25-17 and outlasted Newton, 25-21, 23-25, 25-18 in its toughest test of the day.
Against Newton, Ellegood and Feist each delivered 8 winners. Spray and Ellegood had 5 blocks. Macy Nachtigal and Spray each contributed 15 digs, Thexton 12 and Lauryn Davis 10. Behr had 16 assists and Spray 8. Macy Nachtigal contributed 15 serves received and Spray had 11 serves received. Thexton had 18 serves, Davis 13 and Spray 12.
"Newton was a tough team to beat," said Great Bend coach Shelly Duvall. "Our play against Newton first set, we played lights out. Our passing and hitters were on. Our setters were setting exactly what we needed. We played the two power teams Hutchinson and Newton first. We knew we had to beat those two teams. We want to battle against good volleyball teams to make us better."
Ellegood delivered the day's biggest spikes with floor-rattling winners.
"I've put in a lot of work in the off-season and taking advantage of my opportunities. I'm improved a long ways," she said. "I'll pound the ball and swing after seeing where the blocks are. I can't do anything without our back row and setters."
Ellegood likes the team chemistry with the players staying loose and positive.
"I love our fight," Ellegood said. "We're playing really well. Our energy is great on the court and we're connecting as a team. It's nice to have utility players on the court. Our bench is nice."
Spray is the Panthers' ultimate Energizer Bunny, teaming with Behr as the Panthers' second setter, but playing all six positions because of her versatility and athleticism.
"It was a tough transition to passing and hitting this year," Spray said. "I've gotten more comfortable in those roles. I'll play wherever coach needs me.
Duvall said playing 10 players is a luxury.
"Four matches is tough on the girls because there's a large amount of jumping and lots of cramping," she said. "We had to move players around to give them a break. We have 10 girls contributing. We use our entire bench because those fresh legs helps."
The Panthers travel to Goddard Eisenhower Tuesday and Hillsboro Thursday for matches against state-ranked teams.
"As seniors, we're enjoying a strong season," Spray said. "Our hard work is coming together on the court. Our team is playing super right now. It's good to see at our peak at this point. We've got tough teams coming up."
GREAT BEND INVITATIONAL
1--Great Bend (18-1) def. Hutchinson (9-19), 25-23, 25-17; 3--Hutchinson def. Newton (16-12), 17-25, 28-26, 25-22; Great Bend def. Newton, 25-21, 23-25, 25-18; Great Bend def. Liberal, 25-12, 25-14; Great Bend def. Wichita Southeast (3-21), 25-16, 25-15; Hutchinson def. Liberal, 26-24, 25-15; Hutchinson def. Wichita Southeast, 25-16, 25-17; Newton def. Liberal, 25-17, 25-15; Newton def. Wichita Southeast, 25-14, 25-17; Liberal def. Wichita Southeast, 25-22, 17-25, 25-21