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Tigers, Panthers see positive signs, areas that need improving

Park Rapids' Olivia Vaadeland (left) spiked the ball past the block of Nevis' Katie Becker and Megan Norby during Tuesday night's match.1 / 2
Katelyn Hilmanowski received a serve during Park Rapids' match at Nevis Tuesday night.2 / 2

Nevis head coach Stephanie Hanson and Park Rapids head coach Molly Aukes saw plenty of positive signs from Tuesday night's season-opening volleyball match at the Tiger Arena.

Nevis (which fell from No. 1 to No. 4 behind Wabasha-Kellogg, Bethlehem Academy and Mayer Lutheran in this week's Associated Press state Class A poll) made a successful season debut with a 25-21, 25-7, 25-18 victory.

Despite the loss, Aukes felt her Panthers played very well in the first and third sets against one of the top teams in the state.

"Even the girls would say they didn't play up to their expectations. They let their nervous emotions take over a little bit," said Hanson, whose team had 21 ace serves, but 17 service errors. "Our passing and serving broke down and we made way too many errors. But for first-game jitters, it was a great match for both teams."

"I was very pleased with our match," said Aukes. "We had a game plan and the team executed it very well. We were strong servers and controlled where we put the ball."

Set 1 was close throughout as three kills by Nevis' Riley Hanson were offset by a block by Park Rapids' Olivia Vaadeland and kill by Mady Vaudrin as both teams battled to a 7-7 tie. Two kills and a tip by Hanson, an ace serve by Karly Drury, a tip by Olivia Toft and a pair of winning tips by Megan Norby helped the Tigers claim an 18-16 lead before a kill and ace serve by Vaadeland tied the set at 18-18. Nevis closed out the set behind two kills and an ace serve by Hanson.

Nevis controlled Set 2 by jumping out to a 17-5 lead. Three kills by Hanson and kills by Denia Brown and Norby sparked the Tigers in the early going. A kill by Katie Becker and five service points by Norby, including an ace, helped Nevis close out the set.

The Panthers rebounded and claimed a 10-4 advantage in Set 3. A tip by Grace Bateman, two kills by Vaadeland, and two ace serves by Vaadeland sparked that run. After Hanson served two aces to close the gap to 10-7, the Panthers used a kill by Vaadeland to extend the lead to 16-11. The Tigers closed out the match by going on a 14-2 run. Hanson had a pair of kills before serving five aces during a 9-0 run. Norby opened that run with a pair of kills.

Hanson led the Tigers with 24 kills and 13 service aces while Norby added nine kills and four aces. Toft tallied 28 set assists while Savanah Gatewood led the way with eight digs.

"We have a lot of oiling and fine-tuning to do, which may take all season," said Hanson. "The one thing the girls took away from this match is their fight to never give up, even when it's not going the way it's intended. They won three sets and learned a lot about themselves and what they can do and what they need to work on."

Vaadeland led the Panthers with six kills, six digs, three blocks and three ace serves. Vaudrin had two kills while Ashley Thelen led the way with seven digs.

"We were mentally tough and committed to the game plan," said Aukes. "Clearly Nevis has a couple of great hitters, but the girls battled a great team."

Park Rapids statistics

Serves: Thelen 1 for 2, Bateman 9 for 9, Rittgers 2 for 4, Jerger 7 for 7 (1 ace), Vaadeland 10 for 10 (3 aces), Just 2 for 2, Johnson 4 for 5, Hilmanowski 6 for 6 (1 ace).

Service points: Vaadeland 6, Jerger 5, Bateman 4, Hilmanowski 2, Just 1, Johnson 1.

Attacks: Bateman 5 for 8 (1 kill), Rittgers 5 for 6 (1 kill), Bade 0 for 1, Grimes 1 for 3, Vaudrin 5 for 5 (2 kills), Vaadeland 14 for 20 (6 kills), Just 1 for 1, Johnson 4 for 5, Hilmanowski 3 for 3.

Sets: Bateman 12 (3 assists), Rittgers 4, Jerger 1, Grimes 4 (1 assist), Vaudrin 1 (1 assist), Dean 1 (1 assist), Johnson 14 (2 assists).

Digs: Thelen 7, Vaadeland 6, Rittgers 5, Just 3, Jerger 2, Johnson 2, Hilmanowski 2, Bateman 1, Vaudrin 1.

Solo blocks: Vaadeland 3.

Nevis statistics

Serves: Becker 10 for 12 (1 ace), Toft 11 for 13 (1 ace), Hanson 21 for 24 (13 aces), Norby 18 for 20 (4 aces), Gatewood 4 for 5, K. Drury 4 for 7 (1 ace), Brown 6 for 10 (1 ace).

Service points: Becker 6, Toft 4, Hanson 13, Norby 11, Gatewood 2, K. Drury 2, Brown 4.

Attacks: Becker 4 (1 kill), Toft 1 (1 kill), Hanson 31 (24 kills), Norby 15 (9 kills), K. Drury 4 (1 kill), Brown 2 (1 kill).

Sets: Becker 3, Toft 71 (28 assists), Hanson 3, Norby 5, Gatewood 4, K. Drury 6 (1 assist).

Digs: Becker 2, Toft 1, Hanson 6, Norby 4, Gatewood 8, K. Drury 2.

Assisted blocks: Norby 1, Brown 1.