“If you want to be considered one of the best, you got to beat one of the best,” and for the majority of time in the first set of the South Central Conference match between Pana and Litchfield, there appeared to be a shot for the visiting Panthers to upend their hosts.
The perennial powerhouse rose to the occasion, captured the first set 25-19 and rolled to a 25-14 second set win to preserve their fourth conference win and remain in the SCC title hunt.
Coach Greg Cothern’s varsity Panthers are loaded with senior experience and talent as indicated in their starting lineup that includes four senior captains, Lainey Hicks, Rachel Holthaus, Kiley Ladage and Jillian Hamilton, the latter of whom is the Panthers’ main offensive weapon and she did not disappoint against Litchfield as she finished with nine kills, six points, three aces, 12 digs and two blocks.
Pana finished the two set match with 26 kills and the power within the lineup is not limited to Hamilton as junior Chloe Ashcraft laid down six kills while fellow senior teammates Kiley Ladage had five, Rachel Holthaus four and Lainey Hicks and Kady Perry both recorded solo kills.
Pana’s 9-3 lead in the first set was cut down to 9-7 with Litchfield freshman Kendall Stewart at the service line. Pana regained possession and a 10-7 lead following a net serve and the two teams would trade points again before Pana was called for a net foul.
Trailing 11-8, Litchfield tied the score at 11 as Blair Johnson’s jump serve helped set up two points while Taylor Brakenhoff’s attack also garnered a point. Pana retained possession and a 12-11 lead after a center line call against Litchfield but a kill by Litchfield’s Annika Rhodes again knotted the score and there would be four more tied scores before Hamilton would give Pana a 19-18 lead.
Pana’s Emily Blackwell put up a block that was good for point 20; but Johnson answered with a kill and it was 20-19. Pana would score the next five points from Litchfield attack errors, an ace serve from Hamilton, and a cross-court spike from Chloe Ashcraft.
The second set also looked promising for the purple and white with Emma Walch at the service line as Litchfield jumped out to an early 3-0 lead from two Pana serve return errors and a kill by Carlee Harmon. Hamilton’s kill set up a five point scoring spurt and a 7-3 Pana lead, an advantage that continued to swell as Litchfield just couldn’t get anything going offensively or defensively and the Pana Panthers breezed to the 25-14 win, their 16th of the season.
For Litchfield, Carlee Harmon led the team in kills with five followed by Rhodes and Johnson with three apiece and Kendall Stewart with two. In addition, Harmon had five blocks and three good serves. Johnnson and Stewart each had three blocks at the net and Taylor Brakenhoff had one.
Emma Walch was the assist leader with 12 and also had 10 good serves including three aces as did Blair Johnson. Johnson led the team with eight digs followed by Amy Frerichs with seven and Annika Rhodes with four. Both Johnson and Rhodes went 6-0 at the service line.
Next up for Litchfield is a non-conference match with Metro-East Lutheran this evening in Simmons Gymnasium. The two teams met at Metro-East on Sept. 20 and it was Litchfield who came home with a straight set win. The Panthers travel to Vandalia on Thursday for a conference match-up. In an earlier non-conference match on Sept. 21, the Vandals defeated Litchfield 25-20, 25-18 on the home court of the Panthers.
October 7 at Pana
Pana 25 25
Litchfield 19 14
Service Points: Rachel Holthaus 9, Laney Hicks 7, Jillian Hamilton 6, Emily Blackwell 4, Jadyn Bearup 1. Aces: J. Hamilton 3, E. Blackwell 1. Kills: J. Hamilton 9, Chloe Ashcraft 6, R. Holthaus 4, Kiley Ladage 5, Lainey Hicks 1, Kady Perry 1. Assists: R. Holthaus 13, E. Blackwell 4, K. Perry 3. Blocks: J. Hamilton 2, L. Hicks 2. Digs: J. Hamilton 12, J. Bearup 8, Sierra Richards 4, K. Ladage 3, L. Hicks 2, R. Holthaus 2, C. Ashcraft 1, K. Perry 1.
Serves In/Out: Emma Walch. 10/1, Annika Rhodes 6/0, Blair Johnson 6/0, Kendall Stewart 4/1, Carlee Harmon 3/0, Taylor Brakenhoff 2/0. Aces: E. Walch 3, B. Johnson 3, K. Stewart 1. Attack Attempts/Kills: C. Harmon 10/5, B. Johnson 17/3, A. Rhodes 13/3, K. Stewart 7/2, T. Brakenhoff 3/0, E. Walch 2/0. Assists: E. Walch. 12, Ashley Hickerson 1. Blocks: C. Harmon 5, B. Johnson 3, K. Stewart 3, T. Brakenhoff 1. Digs: B. Johnson 8, Amy Frerichs 7, A. Rhodes 4.
Records: Pana (16-4, 4-1), Litchfield (8-10, 3-2).