KNOXVILLE — The Knoxville Panthers found a familiar foe awaiting them when they hosted the Class 3A Regional semifinal Wednesday night. The Centerville Redettes, a fellow South Central Conference member was visiting and it didn’t take long for the Panthers to establish a dominate pattern. Knoxville cut to the quick early with a 25-9 win in game one and followed that with a 25-15 win in game two. In game three, the Panthers delivered the knockout punch with a 25-4 breeze through the Redettes’ defense.
Knoxville set the tone for the evening early in game one. The Panthers were leading 6-3 when a rousing kill by Brittany Bacorn gave the serve to Marley McKay. McKay served up the next 12 points to put the Panthers completely in control at 19-3. McKay had a pair of ace serves in the run, Tara Uitermarkt added a block and Abby Wadle put down a kill. From that point the Panthers cruised to victory with a pair of kills each by Uitermarkt and Bacorn and kills by Reilly Finarty and Melanie Sullivan contributing to the offense.
In game two, the Panthers sputtered for a while as hitting and serving errors caused some problems. But with the score tied at eight all, the Panthers went back to their strong suit. A Centerville serving error gave the serve to Emma Dunkin and Dunkin reeled off five consecutive points for a 13-8 Panther lead. In that run, Dunkin had an ace serve, McKay added a block and Charlee Heffron contributed a kill. Later in the game, McKay hit a six-point service run to put the Panthers in control.
In game three, the Panthers were like a group of sharks smelling blood on the water. Long service runs by Dunkin and Maggie Wilkins opened up an 11-1 lead and there was no looking back. Finarty was very active at the net with three kills and Wilkins delivered a pair of ace serves. In the second part of the game, service runs by Finarty and McKay put the cap on the match and ended the season for the Redettes.
“We were motivated to play tonight,” Knoxville coach Mollie Keitges said. “Our defense didn’t give much and we kept them off the serving line. We were able to benefit from several long service runs and our serving was accurate with several aces. We had powerful hitting and we mixed things up well by working all areas of the court.”
Bacorn and Finarty led the team in kills with 10 each and Bacorn chipped in with 15 digs while Finarty was 10-of-10 serving and she had seven digs. McKay was 26-of-27 serving with four aces and dished out 28 assists. Wilkins was 14-of-15 serving with three aces and she added 15 digs. Dunkin was 12-of-12 serving with an ace and she dug up six balls. Uitermarkt contributed five kills and three blocks to the attack.
The Panthers are now 27-7 and will take on the Red Oak Tigers Tuesday night in Creston with a berth in the State Volleyball Tourney on the line.