VOLLEYBALL: Manteno handles Peotone in Route 50 Rivalry
MANTENO — Manteno’s gym was jam packed Tuesday night for the Panthers’ home match with rival Peotone in anticipation of a big win, and thanks to balanced play from all areas, the Panthers made sure their fans left happy.
After the Blue Devils took a brief lead in the first set, the Panthers pulled away and earned a 2-0 win, 25-18, 25-15.
“Any time you’re in a conference match, you want to come out with a win,” Panthers coach Cheryl Davis said. “We haven’t played at home like this in a while, and so it was good tonight. I think we feed off the energy in this room.”
The Blue Devils were able to go point-for-point with the Panthers early on, thanks to some crafty play from their attack. They kept Manteno off balance early on, but it was areas outside of the actual play that hindered their chances, said coach Kathy Barger.
“I thought we did pretty well with our serve receive; our offense was good; we just weren’t talking as a unit,” Barger said. “As a result, our energy was low.”
A few costly mistakes on the Blue Devils’ side of the net were pounced on by the Panthers, specifically senior outside hitter Kaycie Wenzel. Wenzel led the Panthers with eight kills and recorded four digs.
“She’s amazing; she has one of the best fundamental swings of anybody around,” Davis said. “Any time we get her the ball, we expect her to do something positive with it. ... She’s one we can feel good about doing something good.”
Wenzel said it was a team effort Tuesday, particularly in the serving department. While Wenzel found herself at the line for the beginning and end of the first set, she said it was the Panthers’ effort from the line as a team that changed the tide and forced the Blue Devils to become the team off balance.
“All the players in general helped out with the serves,” Wenzel said. “I think we served really hard and aggressive tonight, and it helped us get ahead in our game.”
For Davis, the Panthers’ team effort also was displayed in the passing game, one of the most critical areas of the game in her eyes. Amanda Crowley’s 13 assists and Brandi Woods’ five assists led the Panthers’ passing game.
“They run what they need to run, and we spend a lot of time working on all areas — the fundamentals,” Davis said. “You can’t win if you can’t pass, so we spend a lot of time passing and getting it from out setters to our hitters.”
The Panthers also got strong performances from a pair of sophomores in the middle, where Reese Bachus had five kills and Elena Gomez had three kills. Senior Alyse Crowe added four kills and six digs.
The Blue Devils were led by Emily Moe’s seven kills and Malya Sayre’s five kills. McKenna Evans had 12 assists and seven digs.
While Barger noted her team played well, it wasn’t well enough to beat a premier team such as Manteno. Fortunately for the Blue Devils and Barger, they have plenty of time during the regular season to get to the level Barger thinks they need to be at.
“It’s always helpful to see where your shortcomings are early on and fix them for the end,” Barger said. “We definitely want to peak at the end.”
Both teams return to action Thursday. The Blue Devils are home against Sandwich, and the Panthers host Illiana Christian.