Under the direction of first-year Coach Abby Carlson, the Litchfield High School volleyball program has flourished.
In one short season, the 2021 Lady Panthers have added their name to the record books as they contended for a regional tournament championship in Class 2A competition for the first time since 2003 and in so doing, they won two regional matches in the same tournament, a feat they had not accomplished since 1998, when the IHSA website began tracking information.
Individual recognition was also earned by junior Blair Johnson, who was recently named to the first team South Central all-conference. Johnson finished the season as the Panthers’ leader in attack attempts and kills with 444 and 157 respectively. She was also an all-tournament selection in the eight-team Civic Memorial Eagles Fall Classic played in October at Bethalto.
Named to the SCC all-conference third team was junior Emma Walch, who led the team with 233 assists from the setting position. Walch joined six others who were named to the third team, while Johnson was one of seven first team selections.
This season’s learning curve contained peaks and valleys, but most importantly the lessons learned along the way contributed to marked improvement and a solid performance in the Carlinville Class 2A Regional Tournament where the Panthers upended Hillsboro and Marquette before bowing out to Pana in the title match.
Throughout the season, Coach Carlson relied on a starting lineup that contained senior Taylor Brakenhoff, juniors Carlee Harmon, Blair Johnson and Emma Walch and sophomores Amy Frerichs, Annika Rhodes and Kendall Stewart. Sophomores Gina Painter appeared in seven matches and Madisyn Bremerkamp played in three.
Excluding tournaments and post season play, the Litchfield win column included Carlinville, Gillespie, Hillsboro, Metro East Lutheran (2), Mt. Olive, Southwestern, and Vandalia. Their losses came at the hands of Alton Marquette, Greenville, Hillsboro, Lincolnwood, Nokomis, Pana, Pawnee, Staunton and Vandalia. Litchfield finished in fifth place in the South Central Conference standings with a 4-4 mark having defeated Carlinville, Gillespie, Southwestern and Vandalia. Their conference losses were to Staunton, the undefeated conference champion, the second place Pana Panthers, Hillsboro and Greenville.
The Lady Panthers did not fair well in tournament play as they went 2-3 in the 16-team Grace Filled Tournament and finished 13th. They completed the eight-team Civic Memorial Fall Classic in mid October with a record of 1-3 and finished seventh.
Based on 21 matches and 47 sets played, the Lady Panthers attempted 1,088 serves and recorded 129 aces against 106 service errors. Serve reception accounted for 792 serves from their opponents against 110 receiving errors. Offensively they attempted 1,141 attacks with 324 kills and 203 errors. Assisted defensive blocks numbered 181 with 46 single blocks. They had 286 assists and 498 digs.
With just one graduating senior and the return of this year’s juniors and sophomores, the future of Litchfield High School volleyball is promising and has awakened the competitive juices of both players and fans.
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