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Panthers take care of Otters to begin section tournament

Park Rapids' Kayleah Breitweser (3) put a spike past Fergus Falls' Ellie Swenson (10) during Saturday's Section 8AA tournament match. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

Stephanie Hanson believes that playing a tough schedule during the regular season has prepared the Park Rapids volleyball team for the Section 8AA tournament.

"Good competition always prepares you for the challenge to win throughout the playoffs. We need to continue to discipline ourselves mentally and physically and find the consistency needed in the playoffs," said Hanson. "The opportunity is there for every team in our section. It's who shows up to play and who wants it the most. I expect us to do well. We play well as a team and want to succeed. We have to play our game and execute. I know we can do it."

The Panthers, who received a first-round bye as the No. 1 seed in the South bracket, executed for the most part in their section opener against Fergus Falls Saturday afternoon at the Area High School gym. Park Rapids played a consistent game in eliminating the Otters with a 25-17, 25-19, 25-16 victory.

In Set 1, the Panthers used a 7-2 run to turn a 15-14 lead into a 22-16 advantage. Four kills by Jaiden McCollum, three kills by Rilee Michaelson, two kills apiece by Katelyn Weaver and Kamree Carlson, and a kill by Kayleah Breitweser gave Park Rapids a 15-11 lead. McCollum and Weaver also served aces during that run. After the Otters cut the gap to 15-14, kills by Carlson and Michaelson made it 20-16. Carlson served an ace for a 22-16 advantage before a kill by Michaelson closed out the set.

Kortne Byer served an ace and four points while Weaver's two kills and kills by McCollum and Michaelson gave the Panthers a 5-0 advantage to start Set 2. A kill by Michaelson and an ace serve by Kaisa Coborn extended the margin to 8-2 before a kill by Carlson made it 12-6. Fergus Falls closed the gap to 14-13 before a kill by McCollum, a block by Kennedy Carlson, two kills by Kamree Carlson and three kills by Michaelson closed out that set.

An ace serve by Byer and a kill by Michaelson gave the Panthers a 3-0 lead to open Set 3. Kills by McCollum, Kennedy Carlson and Michaelson made it 11-8 before Byer served four points for a 15-8 advantage. McCollum had two kills during that stretch. A kill by Michaelson and an ace serve by Weaver kept Park Rapids ahead 19-14 before a kill and tip by Kamree Carlson and an ace serve by Kennedy Carlson ended the match.

Michaelson (14), Kamree Carlson (10) and McCollum (9) combined for 33 of the Panthers' 40 kills while Byer (12), Kennedy Carlson (10) and Weaver (8) combined for 30 service points. Park Rapids had 11 hitting errors, only two errors on serve receive and only two service errors while serving nine aces. Kennedy Carlson, who surpassed 3,000 career set assists in the regular-season finale, tallied 33 set assists while McCollum (16), Weaver (14), Kamree Carlson (13), Byer (9) and Coborn (9) combined for 61 of the team's 65 digs. Coborn missed the last five matches with an ankle injury.

"We're working Kaisa back in," said Hanson. "We had to adapt with Kaisa out. The girls stepped up and adopted well."

Lily Persons had nine kills, Chloe Nelson had eight kills, Emma Uhrich had six kills, Kate Kotschevar had 27 set assists and Emma Norgard had 14 digs to lead the Otters. Fergus Falls, the No. 4 seed in the South, opened section play with a 3-2 win over No. 5 Detroit Lakes Friday night. The Otters end the season with a 14-16 record.

Park Rapids carried a 23-2 record into the South championship game against Pequot Lakes, which was held on Oct. 31. The winner of that match advances to the Section 8AA championship match scheduled for Nov. 4 at a time and site to be determined. Roseau and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton played in the other section semifinal match on Oct. 31.

"I thought we did OK. We were a little nervous, but we got the jitters out," said Hanson. "I knew Fergus Falls would be scrappy. We had to earn our points. I liked our energy level, but we're going to have to play a little better than that (against Pequot Lakes). The girls have worked hard and are striving to get to state. They know this is it."

Park Rapids statistics

Attacks: Breitweser 2 (1 kill), Ken. Carlson 6 (1 kill), Coborn 2, Kam. Carlson 32 (10 kills), Weaver 15 (5 kills), McCollum 23 (9 kills), Michaelson 30 (14 kills).

Serves: Byer 18 for 19 (2 aces), Ken. Carlson 14 for 14 (1 ace), Coborn 10 for 11 (2 aces), Kam. Carlson 9 for 9 (1 ace), Weaver 13 for 13 (2 aces), McCollum 10 for 10 (1 ace).

Service points: Byer 12, Ken. Carlson 10, Weaver 8, Coborn 5, Kam. Carlson 4, McCollum 3.

Sets: Ken. Carlson 87 (33 assists), Michaelson 3, Kam. Carlson 2 (2 assists), McCollum 2, Coborn 1 (1 assist), Weaver 1.

Digs: McCollum 16, Weaver 14, Kam. Carlson 13, Byer 9, Coborn 9, Ken. Carlson 3, Breitweser 1.

Blocks (solo-assists): Ken. Carlson 2-0, Weaver 1-0, Michaelson 0-4, Breitweser 0-3, McCollum 0-3, Kam. Carlson 0-2.

Serve receive: Byer 10 for 10, Coborn 9 for 10, Kam. Carlson 5 for 5, Weaver 13 for 14, McCollum 10 for 10, Michaelson 1 for 1.