BY JIM MISUNAS
Libero Baylee Beck is the shortest volleyball Panther, but her presence measures 10 feet tall.
Great Bend’s Beck delivered key defensive plays and precise setting to enable the Panthers to sweep Dodge City 25-18, 25-10 and Hoisington 25-18, 25-20 in Tuesday’s non-league volleyball matches.
The Panthers paid tribute to five seniors Baylee Beck, Sidney Meitner, Olivia Urban, Trista Wilt, Hunter Ruppe and manager Heaven Yager.
“It's always bittersweet to celebrate your seniors, but sometimes that emotion zaps them and they don't play well,” said Great Bend coach Kelsey Perry. “The ladies put two solid matches together. We played well tonight and that is what we needed heading to regionals.”
The Panthers (11-20) will be one of the lowest seeded teams in Saturday’s Class 5A volleyball regional at Great Bend and will likely draw perennial contender Wichita Carroll. But the Panthers maintained a measure of momentum heading to Saturday.
Against Dodge City, 11 players saw action after Alyssa Herter, Jenna Mauler, Beck, Sidney Meitner, Olivia Urban and Sidney Unruh started. Reserves Olivia Mull, Rachel Panzer, Hunter Ruppe, Aleah Urban, Trista Wilt and Kaylee Unruh played pivotal roles off the bench.
The Panthers performed solidly with timely blocking and hitting while Beck keyed the backline defense. Mauler supplied 10 assists and seven digs. Beck had 10 digs. Meitner had five kills and four aces.
Beck, Olivia Urban, Mull, Meitner and Mauler produced point-winning plays for an 18-10 lead. The Red Demons ‘ Ezinne Okoro and Hayden Sanchez sparked a brief rally that sliced the lead to 22-17. But Meitner and Aleah Urban finished off the first set.
Dodge City held a 5-3 lead when Panzer and Aleah Urban swung the second-set momentum. Aleah Urban hit a pair of ace serves and helped finish off the Red Demons with Ruppe and Panzer
Perry believes the Panthers have a subtle advantage playing at home Saturday.
“All we can ask is that we use the momentum and confidence form tonight to play the best we can Saturday,” Perry said. “Being at home, in our comfort zone, and having a home crowd will help. We will need to play really good volleyball to get a win against Carroll. But we are up for it, and I have all the faith in the girls that they can get it done.”
The Panther junior varsity defeated Dodge City and Hoisington.
DODGE CITY STATS
Aleah Urban - 1 kill, 2 aces, 3 digs; Baylee Beck - 1 kill, 10 digs; K. Unruh - 3 digs; Jenna Mauler - 2 kill some, 10 assists, 7 digs; Sidney Meitner - 5 kills, 4 aces, 1 dig; Olivia Mull - 2 kills, 1 block; Olivia Urban - 2 digs; Rachel Panzer - 4 kills, 1 block, 4 digs; Hunter Ruppe - 1 kill, 1 dig; Sydney Unruh - 7 digs; Alyssa Herter - 3 assists, 1 ace; Trista Wilt - 2 kills, 1 block, 3 digs
A. Urban - 3 kills, 1 ace, 3 digs; Beck - 19 digs; K. Unruh - 1 dig; Mauler - 14 assists, 10 digs, 1 ace; Meitner - 5 kill some, 1 block, 3 digsMull - 1 ace; O. Urban - 4 digs; Panzer - 8 kills, 1 dig; S. Unruh - 1 ace, 4 digs; Herter - 2 assists, 1 dog, 1 ace; Wilt- 3 kills, 4 digs, 3 blocks