Pekin takes fourth at Waco volleyball tournament

Pekin began their season by winning two matches and losing two matches at a tournent at Waco on August 20. Erika Coleman had a big night for the Panthers, racking up 21 assists and six aces while going nearly perfect from the service line.

The Panthers faced some early adversity in their first match of the season but overcame it and went on to take fourth at a tournament hosted by Waco on August 20. The girls faced Wapello, Columbus Junction, Waco and Van Buren, two of which they won.

The Panthers were unable to put away the Arrows from Wapello early on, going back and forth in a tight first set. The Arrows went on to take that set 21-14 and put the Panthers in a whole early, but the girls bounced back in a big way with a dominating 21-9 win in the second set. The game went into a final set to determine the victor and Wapello got out to a quick start, putting Pekin in yet another hole.

A charge was made by the Panthers, led by Haley Gambell, one of two seniors on the team. They completed the comeback to win the third set by a score of 15-13 and beat Wapello. Allison Bainbridge, Elle Ledger and Gambell recorded three kills apiece while Erika Coleman had six assists and Kylie Noel led with five digs.

“That comeback was very much a team effort, it wasn’t just the result of one player,” Pekin coach Sara Lane said. “Everyone focused and dug deep and made sure their fundamentals were sound. They were supporting each other and without those components, that comeback wouldn’t have been possible.”

They rode that late momentum into their next match against Columbus Junction where they won two convincing sets by the score of 21-10 and 21-5. They didn’t allow Columbus any chance to get settled and from the get-go held onto big leads, including a 14-0 lead to start the second set. Gambell had seven kills in the match, while Coleman was perfect on her 21 service attempts which resulted in six aces.

The girls got a brief break and went to watch the match between Sigourney and West Burlington before continuing their night against Waco. The Panthers scratched and clawed their way through the two sets against Waco but fell short 19-21 and 10-21. In the first set, Pekin and Waco exchanged leads throughout as Waco would go on a streak and the Pekin would answer. Neither team gave way until Waco managed to close out the set and then put away the Panthers in the second set.

Bainbridge led the team with four kills and Gambell contributed with three of her own while Ledger and Noel had four digs apiece. Coleman led with four assists and was perfect on another eight serves.

Their final match of the night was against Van Buren with the winner to taking third and the loser taking fourth place in the tournament. Pekin got out to a solid start and kept it competitive through most of the first set but couldn’t get that extra push late. Pekin lost the first set 15-21 and seemed to run out of juice in the second set, falling 11-21.

“We have the talent to match what the other team put out on the court,” Lane said. “I think it’s just getting our team to mesh together and getting that team chemistry where it needs to be for the rest of the season.”

Gambell added on another seven kills for the night and Coleman had another seven assists while Ledger tallied another seven digs to go along with one block.

Panther leaders: Gambell – 20 kills, Coleman – 21 assists, Ledger – 14 digs, Coleman/Gambell – 6 aces

The Panthers traveled to Danville on August 25 where they faced New London, Louisa-Muscatine, Danville and Columbus Junction.