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GILMAN — After starting its season with an 8-1 non-conference record, PBL got its first two chances to showcase their talents against Sangamon Valley Conference foes over the past week.
The Panthers passed their first two conference tests, achieving victories at Momence on Tuesday and at Gilman over Iroquois West on Thursday.
With the wins, PBL improved to a record of 10-1 overall and 2-0 in the SVC.
“I’m just proud of the girls,” PBL head coach Kristin Oyer said. “They’re staying aggressive. They’re trying to dominate and keep the momentum. The hard work’s showing, and hopefully it will pay off in the long run.”
The Panthers won Thursday’s match over Iroquois West by a score of 25-13, 25-14.
In the first game, PBL fell behind 5-1. However, with Kortnie Schroeder on the serving block, the Panthers scored six straight points to take a 8-5 lead.
From there, PBL never trailed in that game.
“Kortnie’s a really good server,” Oyer said. “She can find hitters in the serve-receive rotation, kind of go to that hitter and pull her out so they can’t set her as much. She did a great job on the rally with that.”
In a game two that went back-and-forth in the beginning, PBL faced a 5-4 deficit at the hands of the Raiders.
Haley Stagen served for the team. With her on the serving block, PBL went on another six-point run to take a 10-5 lead that, once again, it would not surrender.
“We need to do more of that when we have that serve, take advantage of it, get four or five points with each server,” Oyer said. “That’s a good sign that they’re not too worried or too panicked, and they just take care of business.”
Stagen was one of two players who were absent from PBL’s match at Momence on Tuesday due to illness. Kailey Kleinert, who finished the Iroquois West match with four kills with one block, was absent from the Momence match as well.
“I don’t think they’re 100-percent yet health-wise, but they played hard and did what they could, and I don’t think most people that didn’t know they were sick would have noticed,” Oyer said. “We’ve had to make a few different substitutions, but it’s been working out. It just shows the strength and the depth of the team.”
Kandace Hofer led PBL in kills with 10.
“Hofer had a really good hitting game tonight,” Oyer said. “Her timing was on tonight. She hit the floor with a lot of her hits. Sometimes, they couldn’t even get a hand on it, so that was great to see that the timing was on.”
Schroeder finished the match with 12 service points and three digs as well as four kills. Amanda Ypya contributed a block.
Kayla Cowan helped conduct PBL’s offense, recording a total of 19 assists.
“Kayla’s like the quarterback on a football team,” Oyer said. “She’s just running the plays and putting the ball where she needs to. She does a great job of mixing it up.”
With Cowan as the conductor, Oyer said her team is looking toward developing more plays to the offensive repertoire.
“We’re trying to do some more plays, even though we have a lot of good plays already,” Oyer said. “If the passes are on, if Randee Newsom and Jori Maynard are supplying those good passes, we’re going to run some quick tempo, so that’s nice to see that they’re still willing, even though we’re at 11 games, to try and polish what we’re doing. It’s a good sign. We’re starting strong and trying to stay strong.”
The PBL junior varsity team achieved a victory as well, beating Iroqouis West 25-19, 25-16 to improve to a 4-2 record.
PBL def. Momence 25-15, 25-11
MOMENCE — Despite Kleinert and Stagen’s absence, PBL pulled off the SVC-opening win over the Redskins.
The Panthers were led by Hofer and Ypya, who led the team in kills with nine each. Ypya also had two blocks.
“I think Ypya is really pushing herself,” Oyer said. “She’s pushing it in practice, and it’s showing in the game. She is just wanting to go as hard as she can all the time. She’s pushing it offensively and defensively, and that’s making a difference. She’s getting those slides down. She can hit them cross, she can hit them line, and her defense is what’s really going to help her. She’s transitioning off that net. She’s going to wherever the hits are to get some blocks on them, so that has stepped up her game a lot.”
Kayla Cowan finished the match with 20 assists.
Kristen Batte had a productive day on the serving block with 13 service points and one ace. Kortnie Schroeder recorded an ace as well and contirbuted four digs.
“We had to make adjustments with Kleinert gone,” Oyer said. “She’s got that quickness going in the middle of the front row, and we had to make some adjustments there, and it worked out just fine. It just shows how strong these girls are. They still try to run the same plays no matter who’s in there.”
The PBL junior varsity and freshmen teams picked up victories at Momence as well.
The JV team won 25-17, 25-10 and the freshmen beat the Redskins 25-13, 25-20.
The Panthers will play their third SVC match at home against Cissna Park on Tuesday.
In their previous matchup at the Timberwolf Tip-Off on Aug. 25, PBL defeated CPCI 25-15, 25-20.
“We know what to expect and who the leaders on the floor are for that team,” Oyer said Thursday. “Defensively, we didn’t get a whole lot of stuffs on them, so we can step up our blocking with them. Our coverage has improved a lot. They return the ball back a lot and keep the volleys longer, so I think if we dominate like we did tonight, we can shut them down a little bit more.”
On Saturday, PBL will host the Volleyball Classic.
The Panthers will begin pool play with a match against Lexington in the PBL High School gym at 9 a.m.
They will continue Gold Pool play against Clinton at 10 a.m. and Monticello at 1 p.m.
The championship match of the PBL Volleyball Classic will take place at 6:30 p.m.
“It’s a nice tournament, but it’s not an easy tournament,” Oyer said. “It is hard to win it, and we’ll just prepare the best we can for all three teams we’ll see Saturday within the week.”