EDDYVILLE — It was a championship-caliber match when the Knoxville Panthers made a trip to Rocket Land to tangle with the Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont Rockets Tuesday night. Knoxville has been the dominate force in South Central Conference volleyball for the past several seasons and a youthful EBF team has risen to the top this fall. So when the two teams met at the net Tuesday night, the sparks flew.
In game one, the Rockets jumped out to a 7-1 lead behind the hitting of Molly Shafer and several Panther hitting errors. But when Knoxville gave the service to Brittany Bacorn, things turned around in a hurry. Bacorn served up eight consecutive points including three service aces to give Knoxville a 10-7 lead.
The two teams settled into a point trading session until Abby Wadle nailed a kill for the Panthers that sent her to the service line. A Rocket hitting error and a pair of aces by Wadle put the Panthers on the verge of breaking the game open at 17-11.
But EBF found an answer. Four kills and an ace by Molly Shafer and a pair of aces by Ruth E Gutch gave a 21-19 lead back to the Rockets. A flurry of errors by both teams left the score tied at 22-22. A thundering kill by Molly Shafer, a KV error and a throbbing kill by Whitney Klyn gave the Rockets a hard earned 25-22 win in game one.
Game two started with a smashing kill by Melanie Sullivan, a Rocket error, three ace serves by Bacorn and a sizzling kill by Ella Breazeale to give Knoxville a 6-1 lead.
The Panthers would build that lead to 10-5 before a kill by Klyn would give the serve to Sara Schutt. With the “Shooter” at the line the Rockets used a trio of kills by Klyn and another smash by Kate Shafer along with a pair of Panther hitting errors to scratch out an 11-10 lead.
Once again the two combatants would scrap and claw their way to a 22-22 deadlock. Kate Shafer and Bacorn traded kills for a 23-23 tie and then Kate and Klyn nailed kills to give a narrow 25-23 win to the Rockets.
The Panthers had their backs squarely against the wall in game three and they fought like a caged panther. Eight times the Rockets would take the lead only to have Knoxville come back and take the lead. Finally the Rockets used a hitting error to take a 25-24 lead and force game point. A long serve by the Rockets tied the score at 25-25. The Panther serve was passed to Kate Shafer and she set her twin sister Molly for a resounding kill and a one point lead. The final serve was hit into the net and the Rockets had a 27-25 victory.
“This was a great conference match,” Rocket Coach Gladys Genskow said. Every set was close and every ball was contested. Knoxville’s defense was really quick to the ball and they served tough. We were without our right side hitter due to concussion problems and that forced us to make some adjustments. We struggled with serve reception and we didn’t pass well throughout the match, but we found a way to score points. Our energy level was high for the entire match as we battled back at crucial times and never let up. I am so proud of the resilience this team has showed as they keep working to win.”
Despite to tough loss, Knoxville Coach Mollie Kietges sees improvement in her young team.
“We are making progress,” Kietges said. “We are learning each time out and learning can sometimes be tough. I’m OK with where we are. This team always plays hard and gives it everything they have. The goal is to be the team that people will not want to play come tournament time.”
Knoxville 22 23 25
EBF 25 25 27
Serving – Whitney Klyn 11/11 1 Ace, Sarah Schutt8/8, Jenna Rodwell 8/8 1 Ace, Kate Shafer 6/6, Ruth E Gutch 13/15 2 Aces, Molly Shafer 7/9 2 Aces,
Kills – Molly Shafer 21, Klyn 12, Kate Shafer 3, Aliya Wagamon 2, Schutt 1
Blocks – Wagamon 3, Molly Shafer 2, Klyn 1, Kate Shafer 1, Jeanna Rodwell 1, Gutch 1
Digs – Klyn 15, Schutt 11, Molly Shafer 8, Kate Shafer 7, Cassidy Long 6, Rodwell 5, Gutch 2, Wagamon 1
Assists – Kate Shafer 33
*Knoxville stats were not available at press time