After facing early deficits in all three sets, the Park Rapids volleyball team regrouped and took control in coasting to a 3-0 victory over Aitkin in the Mid-State Conference opener for both teams at the Area High School gym on Thursday, Sept. 12.

The Panthers relied on 13 ace serves and 31 kills to spark a 25-15, 25-18, 25-10 win and remain undefeated on the season.

Allison Ehnstrom served two aces as Aitkin took an early lead 7-0 lead in Set 1. A kill by Kamree Carlson ended that run while a kill and tip by Rilee Michaelson made it 8-4. Kendra Scholz served an ace and Katie Burlingame and Michaelson had kills as the Panthers tied the set at 13-13. Two kills by Michaelson and three service points by Katelyn Weaver gave Park Rapids an 18-14 advantage before Scholz capped off a 6-0 service run with an ace to close out the set. Michaelson had two kills during that stretch.

A block by Weaver and Michaelson gave Park Rapids a 1-0 lead in Set 2 before the Gobblers claimed a 6-3 advantage. Michaelson served three points and Kayleah Breitweser had a kill to give the Panthers a 7-6 edge before Burlingame served three straight aces to extend the lead to 11-7. A tip by Carlson and two kills by Michaelson were offset by ace serves by Aitkin’s Kate Pelarski and Ehnstrom as the set was tied at 15-15. Weaver served four points with the aid of two Michaelson kills to give Park Rapids a 19-15 advantage before two more kills by Michaelson and an ace serve by Scholz closed out that set.

Aitkin jumped out to a 2-0 lead in Set 3 before the Panthers took charge. Kills by Carlson and Michaelson tied it at 2-2 before Weaver served two aces during a 6-0 run to give Park Rapids a 10-3 lead. Michaelson had a tip and a kill during that run. Another kill by Michaelson preceded a 7-0 service run by Scholz as two ace serves and kills by Burlingame, Michaelson and Carlson produced an 18-4 advantage. Another kill by Carlson made it 20-6 before Weaver ended the match with an ace serve.

Michaelson finished with 19 kills while Scholz served five aces and 20 points and Weaver served four aces and 13 points to go along with 24 set assists to lead the Panthers’ offense.

Defensively, Carlson (10) and Just (9) combined for 19 digs with Scholz and Michaelson assisting on three blocks apiece as the Panthers improved to 4-0 on the season. The Panthers had 14 attack errors and 11 service errors in the match.

Park Rapids, Pequot Lakes (6-0 overall) and Staples-Motley (7-2 overall) are all 1-0 in conference matches with Aitkin (which fell to 2-2 overall) joining Crosby-Ironton and Detroit Lakes at 0-1.

Park Rapids statistics
Serving: Just 5 for 5, Scholz 26 for 27 (5 aces), Carlson 8 for 10, Weaver 16 for 19 (4 aces), Michaelson 4 for 7 (1 ace), Burlingame 6 for 7 (3 aces).
Service points: Scholz 20, Weaver 13, Carlson 5, Michaelson 4, Burlingame 4, Just 2.
Attacks: Michaelson 30 (19 kills), Carlson 20 (8 kills), Scholz 7, Breitweser 5 (2 kills), Burlingame 5 (2 kills).
Sets: Weaver 54 (24 assists), Carlson 6 (2 assists), Just 2, Breitweser 1 (1 assist), Burlingame 1 (1 assist).
Digs: Carlson 10, Just 9, Weaver 6, Burlingame 5, Michaelson 4, Scholz 2.
Blocks (solo-assists): Carlson 1-0, Scholz 0-3, Michaelson 0-3, Weaver 0-1.
Serve receive: Just 8 for 10, Carlson 5 for 5, Michaelson 7 for 8, Burlingame 12 for 15.