Panthers Play Their Way Into Title Game

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Prior to the beginning of the 2021 LHS volleyball season, first year Coach Abby Carlson talked about her vision for the program. 

“I want Litchfield High School to have a highly competitive volleyball program,” and the Lady Panthers took yet another huge step in their development Tuesday night in the IHSA Class 2A Carlinville regional tournament as they ousted the Marquette Catholic Explorers in the semi-finals and earned the right to meet the Pana Panthers this evening in the Big House on West Main for a regional championship title.

It will be the first time since 2003 that Litchfield has contended for a regional championship and the first time LHS has won two regional matches in the same tournament according to the IHSA website that began tracking the information in 1998.

The road to the semi-finals went through Hillsboro following a three-set decision over the Toppers on Oct. 25 in match one. The host school Cavaliers posted a straight set win over Gillespie in the match two, but lost to Pana in match four played on Oct. 26 after Litchfield’s win over Marquette. 

The winner of tonight’s title game will advance to the IHSA Class 2A Vandalia Sectional on Nov. 1 and will face the Flora Regional Tournament champion. In their second match of the young season, Litchfield traveled to Alton Marquette on Aug. 31, and it was the Explorers in two. Litchfield reversed the trend in Tuesday’s night regional match as the Panthers trailed one time in the first set after being called for a net foul during the Explorers initial serve. Sophomore Annika Rhodes quickly returned possession, and a point off the first of her three match kills. Litchfield opened up a 7-2 lead and five seemed to be a good number for the Panthers as they held leads of five points seven more times during the course of the set.

Trailing 13-18, Marquette captured the next three points and inched within two before Torrie Fox sailed an attack out of bounds that gave Litchfield a point and possession. Following a long rally won by the Explorers, the Panthers’ lead dwindled to 19-17, but Rhodes again put down a kill and Blair Johnson’s soft tip over a tandem block at the net closed out the first-set Panther win.

The good gals played with confidence in the second set and while Marquette tied the score early at two, Litchfield recaptured the lead following an out-of-bounds attack by Ellebracht. Trailing 11-6, Marquette narrowed the gap to three and that would be as close as they would get for the remainder of the match as the purple and white dinked, set, spiked and served their way to an insurmountable 22-10 lead before sophomore Kendall Stewart’s attack sealed the 25-11 deal. Sophomore outside hitter Annika Rhodes had a banner night from the service line as she zeroed in for 18 serves in play and three that could not be returned.

Rhodes also had three kills and ten digs. Blair Johnson led the Panther front line attack with nine kills. She also contributed six serves in play, an ace serve, five digs and one block. Emma Walch was also perfect from the service line with six in play. From the setter position, she had 12 assists and dug out four balls. 

Carlee Harmon led the Panthers with four blocks. In addition she had a kill, seven inbound serves and an ace. Playing in the libero position (defensive specialist), sophomore Amy Frerichs dug out ten balls. Taylor Brakenhoff contributed four good serves and two digs while Kendall Stewart had three blocks, four good serves and three digs.

For Marquette, Shay O’Leary led the team in service points with four followed closely by Allison Woolbright with three. Olivia Ellebracht was the kill leader with four. Kendall Meisenheimer and Natalie Wills each had two kills. Rose Brangenberg was the assist leader with six. On the other side of the ball, Abby Williams had ten defensive digs.

October 26 at Carlinville

Class 2A Regional Semifinal

Litchfield 25 25

Alton Marquette 21 11

Litchfield Statistics

Serves In/Out: Annika Rhodes 18/0, Carlee Harmon 7/1, Emma Walch 6/1, Blair Johnson 6/0, Taylor Brakenhoff 4/2, Kendall Stewart 4/0. Service Aces: A. Rhodes 3, C. Harmon 1, B. Johnson 1. Attack Attempts/Kills: B. Johnson 16/9, A. Rhodes 13/3, C. Harmon 2/1, T. Brakenhoff 5/0, K. Stewart 3/0. Blocks: C. Harmon 4, K. Stewart 3, E. Walch 2, B. Johnson 1. Assists: E. Walch 12. Digs: Emma Frerichs 10, A. Rhodes 10, B. Johnson 5, E. Walch 4, K. Stewart 3, T. Brakenhoff 2.

Alton Marquette Statistics

Serve Attempts/Points: Shay O’Leary 7/4, Allison Woolbright 8/3, Sydney Ehrman 6/1, Ryan O’Leary 5/1, Abby Williams 4/1, Rose Brangenberg 3/0. Service Aces: R. O’Leary 1, A. Woolbright 1. Attack Attempts/Kills: Olivia Ellebracht 2/4, Kendall Meisenheimer 6/2, Natalie Wills 6/2, Chloe White 12/1, Allison Geiger 7/1, A. Williams 4/1, Torrie Fox 5/0, A. Woolbright 3/0, R. Brangenberg 1/0, R. O’Leary 1/0. Assists: R. Brangenberg 6, A. Woolbright 4, S. O’Leary 1. Digs: A. Williams 10, R. O’Leary 3, S. O’Leary 3, R. Brangenberg 3, S. Ehrman 1, A. Woolbright 1.

Records: Litchfield (13-12); Marquette (24-9-2).

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