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Panthers can't hold late leads in loss to Crookston

Grace Bateman (2) went up for a tip during Park Rapids' match with Crookston Monday night.

What could have been a three-set win turned into a four-set loss for the Park Rapids volleyball team Monday night.

The Panthers held leads in all four sets, but Crookston was able to escape the Area High School gym with a 26-24, 29-27, 24-26, 26-24 victory in this battle of Section 8AA rivals.

After falling behind 3-1 in Set 1, the Panthers used five service points by Justine Rittgers, a spike and block by Olivia Vaadeland, a kill by Megan Grimes, a tip by Katelyn Hilmanowski, blocks by Grimes and Vaadeland, and two spikes by Hilmanowski to claim an 18-10 advantage. A tip by Mady Vaudrin kept the lead at 19-12 before Amber Froeber served seven straight points to tie the set at 21-21. A tip by Grimes tied the set at 24-24 before Crookston won the next two points.

A pair of kills by Vaadeland gave the Panthers a quick 6-3 lead in Set 2 before Monica Wold served four points to give Crookston a 9-7 advantage. Two winning spikes by Grimes, a spike by Vaadeland and a block by Vaadeland and Vaudrin gave Park Rapids a 13-11 edge. Kills by Vaadeland and Grimes and five service points by Vaadeland gave Park Rapids a 20-16 edge. A kill by Hilmanowski gave the Panthers a 24-22 lead, a dig by Vaudrin gave the Panthers a 26-25 lead and a Crookston error gave the Panthers a 27-26 lead. But the Pirates fought off all three set points before Froeber served out the set.

The Panthers took control early in Set 3 as a kill by Vaudrin, two kills by Vaadeland and two kills by Grimes led to a 12-4 advantage. Two ace serves by Grace Bateman and a kill by Vaudrin pushed the lead to 19-8. Vaadeland's spike, a tip by Bateman and a kill by Grimes gave the Panthers a 22-13 advantage before Crookston used four service points by Kenzie Klatt and five service points by Wold to tie the set at 24-24. A kill by Grimes helped the Panthers extend the match.

The fourth set went back-and-forth as a kill by Hilmanowski, a spike and ace serve by Vaadeland, a block by Grimes and a kill by Vaudrin gave the Panthers an early 10-6 lead. A tip by Bateman and a kill by Vaadeland kept the Panthers in front 14-11 before Crookston took an 18-16 lead. A block by Grimes on Rittgers' serve put the Panthers in front 20-18, but the Pirates reclaimed a 23-21 edge. A block by Grimes and Vaudrin and two ace serves by Grimes gave the Panthers a set point at 24-23. But Crookston used an ace serve by Katie Davidson to close out the match.

Wold's 14 kills and eight ace serves led the Pirates. Taylor Demarias had 29 digs, Hayley Solheim had 17 digs, Klatt had 15 digs, Froeber tallied 10 blocks and Katie Davidson served eight aces as Crookston improved to 2-5 on the season.

Park Rapids fell to 4-7.