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ONARGA — The Paxton-Buckley-Loda seventh-grade volleyball team got off to a dominating start to Onarga Regional play Saturday.
The No. 2-seeded Panthers knocked off No. 7 Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley in the quarterfinals 25-5, 25-12. The victory came four days after defeating the Falcons 25-20, 25-15 in what turned out to be their regular season finale after their Thursday match against Prairie Central was postponed due to inclement weather.
“We continue to improve,” PBL head coach Kara Harrison said after the regional quarterfinal match.
With Valeree Johnson on the serving block, PBL (15-5) raced out to an 8-0 lead in the first game, a run that included three aces by Johnson. She finished the match with five aces as well as 11 points.
After GCMS countered with a 3-2 run, PBL answered back with nine consecutive points — capped by a point that came as a result of a sequence of hustle hits that included an overhead bump by Liberty Jamison — that extended the Panthers’ lead to 19-3. From there, PBL ended the first game with a 6-2 flurry.
The Falcons took an early 2-1 lead in the second game. The lead would be a short-lived one as Madison Grohler tied the game with a tap over the net that found floor space in the center of GCMS’s side.
Grohler gave PBL the 3-2 lead — after which it would not trail again — with a service ace. The Falcons salvaged a 5-5 tie before the Panthers scored the next three points to take a lead they would not surrender.
Following a GCMS point that cut PBL’s lead to 9-7, the Panthers went on an 11-0 run to take control of the game.
Cassidi Nuckols was on the serving block and picked up a few aces during the run. She finished the match as the team’s leader in aces (7) and points (14) and recorded two kills.
After GCMS went on a 5-4 run to cut PBL’s lead to 24-12, Johnson recorded the last of her five aces to clinch the match victory for her team.
The Panthers finished the match with 19 aces.
“We served very well,” Harrison said.
Jamison led PBL in kills with three and added three aces and nine blocks as well as five passes. Grohler added two kills along with five points, two aces and four passes.
Kalista Klann led the Panthers in sets (5) and passes (12) as well as scoring four points..
PBL faced No. 3-seeded Herscher-Limestone, which defeated No. 6 Iroquois West 25-21, 25-18 Saturday, in Monday’s semifinal match.
“I’m very confident with the girls,” Harrison said Saturday.
In spite of Harrison’s confidence, the Panthers ended their season with a 25-21, 23-25, 25-16.
“I’m very proud of my team,” Harrison said. “They fought hard, and played together.”
As well as the seventh-graders, PBL’s eighth-grade volleyball team picked up a victory over Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley as well.
The Panthers defeated the Falcons 25-11, 25-8 in a match played Tuesday, Feb. 19.
Kelsey Vaughn led PBL (11-8) in points with 17 and recorded eight aces, two kills and 11 passes. Katelyn Riffle and Alexis Stevens each added 10 points.
Riffle recorded four aces and a kill while Stevens had two kills, one ace and 14 passes.
The Panthers’ match against Prairie Central, originally scheduled for Thursday, was postponed due to inclement weather.
The PBL eighth-graders will begin regional play at Clifton J.L. Nash as the No. 2 seed. They will face a rematch against No. 7 GCMS in the quarterfinals at 5:30 p.m. next Tuesday.
“We now have to wait two long weeks until we play in the regional at Clifton Nash,” PBL head coach Kelli Vaughn said last week. “We will take a day off this week and then refocus our attention on the task at hand — getting to the championship match to have another chance to win another regional. I look forward to the challenge.”