PBL volleyball to start season with strong schedule, young squad

PAXTON -- The Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School volleyball team is hoping for more postseason success as it enters the 2018 season.
Despite a 98-53-1 record since 2013, the Panthers have not appeared in a regional championship game since 2012. Their last regional title was in 2004.
Part of the plan toward more postseason success involved putting together a more intense schedule.
“That was our goal – to try to intensify the schedule so, come postseason, we have a better chance of beating our opening-round opponent," PBL head coach Lindsay Stalowy said. "We might take some losses along the way, but I think, in the end, it will better prepare us for our regional.”
The Panthers will start its season at the Timberwolf Tip-Off Classic, which will be hosted by a Cissna Park squad that reached the IHSA Class 1A sectional finals last year.
After matches against Fisher on Tuesday, Aug. 21, and Clifton Central at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 22, PBL will square off against Oakwood -- which won last year's 2A Westville Regional -- at 7:30 p.m. later that Wednesday.
After its Sangamon Valley Conference opener at home against Watseka -- which won a 2A regional title on its home court last year -- on Thursday, Aug. 30, the Panthers will welcome last year's 2A state champion, St. Thomas More, to Paxton on Tuesday, Sept. 4.
After a road match against 3A school Prairie Central on Monday, Sept. 10, PBL will host St. Joseph-Ogden on Tuesday, Sept. 11 before traveling to face Cissna Park on Thursday, Sept. 13, and Tri-Valley -- last year's 2A El Paso-Gridley Regional champion -- on Monday, Sept. 17.
A home match against SVC opponent Momence on Thursday, Sept. 20, will be followed by PBL's participation in the Watseka Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 22, and a match at Oakwood on Monday, Sept. 24.
“We definitely stepped up our schedule this year. We're going to have a tough two or three weeks,” Stalowy said. “There are a couple of teams we haven't seen before, so I'm really just excited to see how the team holds their own against that good competition, and on top of that, to see how they recover from back-to-back tough matches.”
The Panthers' varsity squad will welcome some players who have some experience with postseason success -- albeit, on the IESA level.
They will start one freshman -- Addison Oyer -- on the varsity squad. Oyer is part of a freshman class that went to the IESA Class 3A state tournament last March as PBL's eighth-grade squad.
The Panthers' sophomore class -- which includes Makayla and Makenna Klann, Jasmine Miles and Brooke Walder -- won an eighth-grade regional championship as well in 2017.
“We have quite a few young girls who are going to join us on the varsity roster," Stalowy said. “We've got some height in that (sophomore) class. We have some hitters. They're pretty well-rounded, and their holding their own right now.”
The Panthers' junior varsity team won the Cissna Park Summer Showcase on July 11 while the varsity squad clinched the championship of the St. Thomas More Summer League on July 25. According to Stalowy, the squads did something more valuable over the past summer.
“I'm excited to see the older girls mesh with the younger girls – the older girls lead the younger girls and the younger girls kind of break out of their shell and push the older girls," Stalowy said.
Katelyn Crabb, who had 67 digs -- 3.19 per match played -- last year, returns -- along with Abbie Schmidt, Aubree Bruns and Madi Peden, among others -- to a squad that lost two collegiate volleyball players-to-be -- Kalista Klann and Ariana Gentzler -- to graduation. With the departures comes a demand for the older players to step up and be leaders.
“I think they're transitioning very well," Stalowy said. "In the summer toward the end of July, the senior crew really came together, and they're playing as one unit and playing cohesively. We have about four leaders in that group who are vocal and ready to take charge. When another girl steps up, they're willing to let that other player step up, so it's a pretty selfless crew right now.”
Categories (3):Prep Sports, Volleyball, Sports


Comments for this post are inactive.