Panthers set foundation for future

Molly Aukes knew it would take some time for the Park Rapids volleyball team to click as a unit. Having players filling new roles resulted in a 1-8 start to the season. The Panthers played well the rest of the season by going 8-6 during one stret...

Maria Goetz
Maria Goetz handled the majority of the setting duties this season, leading the Panthers with 297 set assists. (Photos by Vance Carlson / Enterprise)

Molly Aukes knew it would take some time for the Park Rapids volleyball team to click as a unit.

Having players filling new roles resulted in a 1-8 start to the season. The Panthers played well the rest of the season by going 8-6 during one stretch before finishing with a 9-17 record.

Park Rapids opened the season by dropping all four matches at the Albany tournament. The Panthers were defeated by Watertown-Mayer (25-12, 25-8), Rocori (25-17, 25-17), Little Falls (25-17, 25-14) and St. Cloud Apollo (25-15, 25-20).

After a loss to Nevis (25-14, 25-21, 25-14), the Panthers defeated Walker-Hackensack-Akeley (25-18, 25-21, 25-23).

Losses to Frazee (25-18, 25-11, 25-20), Wadena-Deer Creek (25-18, 25-14, 25-7 in the Mid-State Conference opener) and Pine River-Backus (25-23, 21-25, 16-14 in the first round of the Pequot Lakes tournament) left the Panthers with a 1-8 record.


The Panthers won the consolation title at Pequot Lakes by defeating International Falls (25-6, 25-22), Staples-Motley (25-17, 25-21) and Mahnomen (25-22, 20-25, 15-12).

After a come-from-behind victory over Menahga (25-19, 22-25, 19-25, 25-16, 15-6), the Panthers split conference matches with Detroit Lakes (losing 25-17, 25-15, 23-25, 25-14) and Pequot Lakes (rallying for a 22-25, 25-23, 20-25, 25-14, 16-14 win). That lifted the Panthers to 5-9 on the season.

Losses to Thief River Falls (25-20, 25-22, 25-22) and Pine River-Backus (25-17, 25-18, 21-25, 25-13) were followed with another come-from-behind win over Cass Lake-Bena (25-16, 22-25, 23-25, 25-11, 15-12). A conference loss to Staples-Motley (25-16, 22-25, 23-25, 25-11, 15-12) and a loss to East Grand Forks (25-8, 25-12, 26-24) dropped the Panthers to 7-13 on the season.

The Panthers finished third at the Nevis tournament by defeating Verndale (25-18, 25-21), losing to Nevis (25-14, 16-25, 15-7) and defeating Pine River-Backus (25-20, 23-25, 15-11).

A loss to Crosby-Ironton (25-14, 25-23, 18-25, 17-25, 15-13) gave the Panthers a 1-4 record in conference play and a loss to Crookston (25-12, 22-25, 25-11, 25-16) gave the Panthers the No. 8 seed for the Section 8AA tournament.

Park Rapids saw its season end with a 25-12, 25-9, 25-18 loss to No. 1 East Grand Forks in the first round of section play.

For the season, the Panthers put 85.6 percent of their serves in play (1,324 for 1,547) with 181 aces and 695 points. In 82 games, the Panthers had 527 kills (6.4 per game) and 976 digs (11.9 per game). Park Rapids also went 83.7 percent in serve receive (1,216 for 1,452).

The Panthers served a season-high 14 aces against Menahga and had double digits in ace serves against W-H-A (13), Pequot Lakes (13), Cass Lake (13), Mahnomen (12), PR-B (12), Verndale (10) and Crosby-Ironton (10).


Park Rapids tallied 42 kills against Pequot Lakes and had 39 kills against Cass Lake, 38 kills against Menahga and 37 kills against Crosby-Ironton.

The Panthers tallied a season-high 96 digs against PR-B and had 92 digs against Staples-Motley, 88 digs against Crosby-Ironton and 80 digs against Nevis.

"We didn't meet our goal of hosting a playoff match, but gained valuable experience for next season," said Aukes. "We played well against some very good teams, which will give us confidence next year."

Leading the Panthers this season were the 10 letterwinners: senior Jasmine Felt; juniors Maria Goetz, Hailey Lundin, Jenny Palm, Taylor Smythe, Leeza Tostenson, Shelby Weckwerth and Hannah Wolff; sophomore Ashley Domino; and freshman Olivia Vaadeland.

Wolff received Mid-State Conference honors after leading the team with 126 kills and 45 ace blocks. Wolff put 80 percent of her serves in play (200 for 250) with 24 aces and 114 points. In 82 games, Wolff had 56 digs and 17 solo blocks at middle hitter. Wolff received the team's Spirit Award, "The Wall" award for blocking and "The Hammer" award for hitting. Wolff had a team-high 14 kills and five ace blocks against Detroit Lakes.

Lundin, an outside hitter, earned all-conference honorable mention honors after leading the team with 65 ace serves, 160 service points and 243 digs. Lundin put 81.1 percent of her serves in play (244 for 301) and had 117 kills in 82 games. Lundin, who was one of the Panthers' captains, received the team's Hustle Award and Digger Award. Lundin served 11 aces against Menahga to tie the school record set by Becky Schauer in 1994. Lundin led the team with 11 straight service points against International Falls and had a team-high 18 service points against Menahga. Lundin also had a team-high 22 digs against Crosby-Ironton.

Felt, the other captain, played in 25 games and put 11 of 12 serves in play with three aces and six points, tallied six assists and had three kills as a setter.

Goetz took over the starting setter role and led the team with 1,219 sets and 297 set assists. Goetz played in all 82 games and went 256 for 279 in serves (91.8 percent) with 17 aces and 114 points. Goetz also had seven kills and 123 digs. Goetz had a team-high 26 set assists against Menahga.


Palm played in 56 games as an outside hitter and went 106 for 123 in serves (86.2 percent) with 13 aces and 66 points. Palm also had seven kills and 102 digs.

Smythe played 63 games as a setter and was second on the team with 438 sets and 90 set assists. Smythe put 117 of 130 serves in play (90 percent) with 14 aces and 63 points while tallying 39 digs.

Tostenson played all 82 games as an outside hitter and had 64 kills and 123 digs. Offensively, Tostenson had a service percentage of 86.4 percent (153 for 177) with 16 aces and 85 points. Tostenson was third on the team by receiving 239 serves and also had 19 set assists.

Weckwerth, a defensive specialist, led the team by receiving 341 serves and was second in digs with 215. Weckwerth went 111 for 121 in serves (91.7 percent) with five aces and 50 points and had 13 kills in 76 games.

Domino, a right-side hitter, saw action in 47 games and tallied 16 kills, 17 digs and 10 set assists.

Vaadeland was named the Panthers' Most Improved Player in her first varsity season. The freshman middle hitter played in all 82 games and was second in blocks with 40 (including seven solo blocks) and was fourth with 61 kills. Vaadeland also had 13 service points and 27 digs.

With the return of nine varsity letterwinners and some talented junior varsity and C squad players, Aukes is counting on the Panthers to improve on their 9-17 record and move up in the conference and section rankings next season.

"We are returning 10 juniors who have a lot of experience. We will look to hit the season running and look to move forward from where we ended," said Aukes, who was assisted by Marion Goeden and Jackie Griffin. "We will definitely look to be in the top four in our subsection and host a playoff match. It will take the girls playing JO ball and putting time in this summer for us to play at the next level."

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