Less than one week ago the Litchfield Lady Panthers squared off against Staunton in the Grace Filled Tournament and the power of the Bulldogs rendered a 25-14, 25-12 straight set match win.
Although the end result of their second meeting on Sept. 16 at Staunton produced a second match win for the Bulldogs (25-17, 25-17), the effort by Coach Abby Carlson’s Lady Panthers against the Montgomery County Invitation Tournament champion was markedly different as the purple and went toe-to-toe with a talented Bulldog lineup that contains six varsity letter winners from last year.
“I am happy with how the girls played tonight,” Coach Carlson said after the match. “No, we didn’t win but the skills we have practiced the past couple of days really showed tonight and I was proud of them for playing aggressively and at a top level.”
The Bulldog lineup boasts six returning varsity letter winners including the Alton Telegraph’s 2020 Small School Player of Year, junior Haris Legendre. Both Legendre and Head Coach Jeanene Lucykow, the Telegraph 2020 Small School Coach of the Year, were recognized prior to the varsity contest. Coach Lucykow collected her 400th career win during last week’s Montgomery County Invitational Tournament.
In anticipation of a successful season, the Bulldogs beefed up their schedule and added the Edwardsville Tiger Classic and the O’Fallon Tournament. All five of their losses came at the hands of Nashville, Freeburg, Edwardsville, Pleasant Plains and Breese Mater Dei.
“We wanted to face some better competition which in turn we felt would make us a stronger team,” Coach Lucykow said. “We had a rough start to the year with our school being quarantined right before games started and we lost nine practices due to the quarantine. It took us a little time to get back to where we started and we are looking forward to the remainder of the season and hoping to compete in the post-season.”
In Thursday night’s match-up with Litchfield, the two teams played to 10-10 in the first set before the Bulldogs caught the tail of momentum and strung together the next five points.
Following a Litchfield timeout, Staunton’s Grace Bekeske made a statement with her version of power hitting and it was 16-10 in favor of the red and white. Litchfield gained a point off a Staunton hitting error but Haris Legendre sealed point 20 with a kill and the Bulldogs led by nine.
After a Staunton return found the middle of the net, Litchfield mounted a mini rally with kills by juniors Carlee Harmon and Blair Johnson, a defensive block at the net and an out of bounds attack that drew the score to 20-16. Following a long rally won by the Bulldogs, Staunton would be the benefactor of a Panther attack that landed outside the boundary lines and a serve in the net. Haris Legendre served out the set win.
Litchfield continued to battle in the second set and tied the score at eight off a soft tip over the defense by Taylor Brakenhoff. Staunton stretched a three-point lead to six on a serve receive error by the Panthers.
Trailing 9-15, Litchfield gained possession and points on a errant Bulldog attack and service return error. Staunton seized points 16 and 17 before relinquishing the serve and the next five points belonged to the battling Panthers who drew to within one.
Haris Legendre was instrumental in the final sequence of scoring for Staunton as she put down several decisive kills in the waning moments of the match that ended with a block of a Panther attack at the net.
Legendre ended the match with 11 of of Staunton’s 23 kill points. Savannah Billings was the top point scorer with nine. She also recorded 21 assists and three digs. Kennedy Legendre and Kylie Lucykow each had six service points and Sam Schnefke had five.
For Litchfield, Blair Johnson led the team in kills with four, followed by Carlee Harmon and Annika Rhodes each with two. Taylor Brakenhoff had a kill and a block. Rhodes was also credited with 10 inbound serves, two service aces and four defensive digs. Emma Walch had seven assists, six digs and was a perfect five-for-five at the service line. Carlee Harmon had two blocks at the net and served up an ace. Sophomore Kendall Stewart was also credited with two blocks.
It’s a busy week for the Panthers as they travel to Metro East Lutheran today, Sept. 20, followed by back-to-back home games with Vandalia on Tuesday and Carlinville on Thursday.
Sept. 16 at Staunton
Staunton 25 25
Litchfield 17 17
Service Points: Savannah Billings 9, Kylie Lucykow 6, Kennedy Legendre 6, Sam Schnefke 5, Taylor Nolan 4, Haris Legendre 2. Aces: K. Legendre 2, S. Schnefke 2, S. Billings 1, T. Nolan 1. Kills: H. Legendre 11, Danielle Russell 4, K. Legendre 3, T. Nolan 3, S. Billings 1, Grace Bekeske 1. Blocks: G. Bekeske 1, D. Russell 1. Digs: K. Lucykow 5, K. Legendre 3, S. Billings 3, T. Nolan 2, Lily Bruhn 2. Assists: S. Billings 21.
Service In/Out: Annika Rhodes 10/1, Blair, Emma Walch 5/0, Johnson 5/1, Taylor Brakenhoff 3/1, Carlee Harmon 2/2, Kendall Stewart 1/1. Aces: A. Rhodes 2, C. Harmon 1. Attack Attempts/Kills: B. Johnson 15/4, C. Harmon 5/2, A. Rhodes 7/2, T. Brakenhoff 2/1. Blocks: C. Harmon 2, K. Stewart 2, T. Brakenhoff 1. Assists: E. Walch 7, Ashley Hickerson 1. Digs: E. Walch 6, A. Rhodes 4, B. Johnson 2, K. Stewart 2.
Records: Litchfield (4-7, 1-1); Staunton (10-5, 2-0).