Lady Panthers stay close but take road loss to Bullettes

The Lady Panthers volleyball squad came into a tough road match on a high after sweeping Louisa-Muscatine in their previous game and hoped to build off the win. They kept things close for much of the match but couldn’t get the late push, getting swept by ranked Mediapolis on October 2.

The first set started off right for the visitors as Pekin took a minor lead behind some well-placed serves along with some mistakes by Mediapolis. The home squad responded with a run of their own to take the lead, but Pekin stayed right behind them for much of the remainder of the set. Just when it seemed like the Lady Panthers were going to be given a shot at taking the opening set, the Bullettes went off on a run to win it 25-16. The biggest mistakes for Pekin came on several missed dig attempts as Mediapolis came out swinging once they found a rhythm.

“I really wanted us to be aggressive. We knew they had a lot of offensive threats coming into this game and we wanted to get them frustrated by getting some hands on it and moving our defense around,” Pekin coach Sara Lane said. “We had moments of that where we strung together some points, but we needed to do it from beginning to end for an entire game.”

The second set followed a similar path with the Bullettes going up 11-7 early on, finding some gaps in the defense, resulting in a timeout called by Pekin. Mediapolis maintained their lead throughout the set, but Pekin didn’t back down, pushing back with four or five consecutive points to close the deficit and breathe some more life into the team. The Bullettes put together their own string of points to take the second set 25-17 and led the match two sets to none.

“They have a lot of power and talent, giving credit to where credit’s due. Our blockers were in no man’s land at times when they didn’t know which way their setter was going,” Lane said. “They did mostly what we were expecting and made a few adjustments, exploiting the open spot in our defense.”

Mediapolis would take the early lead in the pivotal set, even while playing off their game with several big attack attempts either turning into weaker shots or attacks ending up in the net. The mistakes by Mediapolis gave Pekin hope when they needed it most and kept things close for much of the set. The Bullettes put together another run to put away the Lady Panthers 25-17, finishing with a sweep. Pekin had some chances to close the deficit throughout, but the rhythm didn’t remain consistent enough for the duration of the set.

“I think staying close early was important for our headspace. Being able to see we’re struggling in our matches but still pull in those few points and we’re still in it, even down three points. Having that energy, the entire match has been something we’ve been working on all season and we were able to capitalize on a block to show us the momentum was turning,” Lane said. “We have the talent to beat any team in this area of the state. We just need to put all the factors together and stay consistent throughout a whole match.”

The Lady Panthers closed out the regular season with a tournament at Mount Pleasant on October 6, followed by a final home game against Cardinal on October 9.