PBL eighth-grade volleyball earns trip to IESA Class 3A state tournament with three-set victory over Beecher in sectionals

KANKAKEE -- With a 17-25, 25-22, 25-13 win Monday over Beecher in the IESA Class 3A Bishop McNamara Sectional, the Paxton-Buckley-Loda eighth-grade volleyball team earned a trip to the state tournament.
 
It is the fourth eighth-grade team that head coach Kelli Vaughn led to the state tournament, and first since 2010. It is also the first trip to a state tournament for any PBL volleyball since the Kara Harrison-led seventh-grade Panthers went in 2011.
 
"I am so proud of these kids for battling all night long," Vaughn said.
 
The Panthers led game one by a score of 15-14, but lost the lead as Beecher scored 11 of the next 13 points.
 
"One of their servers got on a roll, and we just couldn't recover," Vaughn said. "After that first game, I reminded them that over the years, I have seen the team that wins the first game lose the match many, many times. I just told them to hang in there and keep working."
 
The two teams were tied at 8-8 in the second game before PBL made three consecutive errors, the third one as a result of a dropped ball.
 
"I got fired up in the timeout. I haven't had to get too fired up this year, so I think they maybe thought I meant business, because we came out of that time-out with a new sense of urgency," Vaughn said. "I just told them that we had to communicate and we had to work together."
 
After giving up one more point on a ace, PBL scored the next six consecutive points to take a 14-12 lead.
 
After Beecher reclaimed the lead, Addison Oyer then recorded a kill to tie the game at 16-16. Oyer recorded another kill to give the Panthers a 17-16 lead.
 
A Beecher kill and two PBL errors gave the lead back to the Bobcats at 19-17 before Oyer recorded a kill and Beecer made two errors to give the Panthers the lead at 20-19.
 
Maisy Johnson recorded a kill to extend PBL's lead to 21-19, and a Beecher hitting error made the score 22-19. Two Beecher kills cut its deficit to 22-21, but a Beecher bad pass pushed the PBL lead to 23-21.
 
A Bobcats kill cut their deficit to 23-22 before a Kendra Johnson kill and a Lillie Frichtl ace sealed the win at 25-22 for the Panthers. 
 
Game three "belonged to the Panthers from the outset," Vaughn said, as an Oyer kill followed by two Beecher errors gave PBL an early 3-0 lead.
 
A kill by Beecher put the Bobcats on the board before Oyer recorded five consecutive kills to extend the Panthers' lead to 8-1.
 
A PBL bad pass, followed by a Beecher ace, allowed the Bobcats to close the gap to 8-3. A Sydney Murphy kill tip followed by four more consecutive kills by Oyer forced the Beecher coach to call her second timeout with the score at 13-3. A Sydney Murphy ace out of the timeout extended PBL's lead to 14-3.
 
The two teams traded errors in the middle of the set, and a Makenna Ecker made the score 20-10. A bad pass by Beecher and a Kendra Johnson ace extended PBL's advantage to 22-10. 
 
A Beecher kill gave the team its 11th point, but Oyer "refused to be denied at the net," Vaughn said, and pounded consecutive kills to give PBL the match point at 24-11. A kill tip by Beecher and a PBL error allowed the Bobcats to tally their 12th and 13th point, respectively, but Maisy Johnson finished the match with a kill to give PBL the victory.
 
Addison Oyer had a team-high 18 kills for the Panthers at the match's end while Kendra Johnson had four kills and a team-high three aces. Maisy Johnson had three kills and two blocks while Carly Mutchmore had three aces.
 
Sydney Murphy had 25 assists and 55 sets.
 
"My kids played their hearts out. Kendra was not feeling well all day, and somehow still played a great match, and Addison was as good as she has ever been," Vaughn said. "Sydney got her the ball and made some great decisions and Addison was a beast at the net. Lorena (Arnett), Carly and Lillie (Frichtl) gave us some great passes and just hustled after everything, and Maisy and Makenna were tough at the net. 
 
"Our point distribution among our servers was so even tonight, and I just thought that everyone stepped up at the right time and just did their job. 
 
"Don't forget those kids on the bench either because they are great teammates, and they push each other in practice every single day. You may not always see every kid in the match, but don't think they haven't earned the right to hold that trophy high too. This team has been a joy to coach all year long. They are an amazing group of young ladies, and I am just along for the ride." 
 
The Panthers (21-1) will face Princeville (20-2) in the first round of the state tournament at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Tolono Unity.
 
"We will do our best to bring back our first state trophy," Vaughn said.
 
PBL def. Beecher 17-25, 25-22, 25-13
At Kankakee
For PBL (21-1), kills: Addison Oyer 18, Kendra Johnson 4, Maisy Johnson 3, Makenna Ecker 2, Sydney Murphy; aces: Kendra Johnson 3, Carly Mutchmore 3, Oyer 2, Lillie Frichtl 2, Murphy; blocks: Maisy Johnson 2; assists: Murphy 25, Mutchmore; sets: Murphy 55; points: Murphy 15, Kendra Johnson 14, Ecker 14, Mutchmore 9, Frichtl 8, Oyer 7; passing points: Frichtl 53, Mutchmore 42, Oyer 38, Lorena Arnett 38, Murphy 30, Ecker 20, Kendra Johnson 5.
Categories (3):Prep Sports, Volleyball, Sports

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