Panthers rally for another dramatic win
For the third time in five matches, the Park Rapids volleyball team entertained a home crowd by going the distance against three rivals.
For the second time in three marathons, the Panthers left the Area High School gym victorious.
After dominating Set 1, the Panthers had to rally for a 25-13, 24-26, 15-25, 25-20, 15-12 victory over Section 8AA rival Crookston. The Panthers defeated Walker-Hackensack-Akeley in similar fashion and lost to Menahga in their other five-set matches at home this season.
Shania Johnson tallied 43 set assists to break the school record of 42 set by Sara Pachel against Clearbrook-Gonvick in 1998.
In Set 1, Johnson broke open a close battle with seven straight service points. A tip by Madi Wagner and ace serve by Mady Vaudrin gave the Panthers a 10-8 edge before Johnson served an ace and was aided by a kill and block by Megan Grimes, a winning spike by Morgan Dean and a kill by Wagner for an 18-8 advantage. Kills by Grimes and Justine Rittgers and a winning spike by Vaudrin helped close out the opening set.
Set 2 featured 13 ties and six lead changes before Crookston was able to even the match. Kills by Grimes, Wagner and Rittgers, a tip by Dean and a winning spike by Rittgers kept the Panthers within 7-5. Crookston took an 11-5 lead before five service points by Bria Wolff and kills by Dean and Grimes tied the set at 11-11. A kill and block by Grimes, an ace serve by Johnson, and kills by Rittgers, Grimes and Dean gave the Panthers a 19-18 edge. Kills by Grimes and Dean tied the match at 24-24 before the Pirates closed out the set.
The Pirates carried that momentum into Set 3 by jumping out to a 14-7 lead. Dean and Vaudrin had kills for the Panthers in the early going. After a kill by Vaudrin, Wolff served and ace and four points as the Panthers cut the gap to 14-12. Grimes had a block and tip and Dean had a kill during that stretch. Abby Parr followed with a string of five points to help Crookston close out the set.
Park Rapids regained the momentum in Set 4 by jumping out to a 14-5 lead behind a kill by Grimes, two kills and a pair of blocks by Vaudrin, a tip and service winner by Rittgers, and a block by Dean. Kills by Grimes and Wagner and a winning tip by Johnson kept the Panthers in front 20-13 before Emily Samuelson served a pair of aces to cut the gap to 20-17. A kill by Dean helped the Panthers close out the set and even the match.
A pair of tips by Grimes, tips by Johnson and Rittgers, and kills by Grimes and Rittgers sparked the Panthers to a 9-1 lead in Set 5. Karlee Meyer served five points as the Pirates rallied to within 12-10, but a tip by Grimes helped the Panthers prevail.
Grimes led the Panthers with 17 kills, 11 service points and six blocks while Rittgers had 11 kills and 17 digs. Dean had 23 digs and Wagner had 18 digs as the Panthers evened their record at 5-5.
Amber Froeber (11), Precious Adams (10) and Sydney Boike (10) combined for 31 kills for the Pirates, who fell to 0-9 on the season with their fourth five-set loss.
“We struggled in both Set 2 and Set 3 with passing, which led to a lot of other errors. Unforced errors got the best of us. We were able to turn that around in Set 4 and take care of the ball better,” said Park Rapids head coach Molly Aukes. “This team has a lot of time together. They have been in Set 5 before and they have each other’s back. They had the guts to stay in it to the end and play for each other, not themselves.”
Park Rapids statistics
Serving: Rittgers 11 for 12, Grimes 18 for 19, Wolff 10 for 11 (1 ace), Vaudrin 8 for 8 (1 ace), Dean 16 for 19, S. Johnson 17 for 17 (2 aces), Wagner 15 for 16.
Service points: Grimes 11, Wolff 9, Dean 9, S. Johnson 9, Wagner 8, Rittgers 6, Vaudrin 4.
Attacks: Rittgers 35 (11 kills), Grimes 34 (17 kills), Vaudrin 20 (6 kills), Dean 30 (8 kills), S. Johnson 16 (2 kills), Wagner 17 (5 kills).
Sets: Rittgers 8, Grimes 4 (1 assist), Wolff 1, Vaudrin 5, Dean 4, S. Johnson 113 (43 assists), Wagner 24 (4 assists).
Digs: Dean 23, Wagner 18, Rittgers 17, Grimes 14, S. Johnson 14, Vaudrin 6, Wolff 1.
Solo blocks: Grimes 6, Vaudrin 2, Dean 1, Wagner 1.
Assisted blocks: Rittgers 1, Grimes 1.
Serve receive: Rittgers 11 for 16, Grimes 28 for 39, Vaudrin 3 for 4, Dean 3 for 4, Wagner 3 for 4.