The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team and Litchfield Coach Jeremy Heigert watched as his varsity Panther played team volleyball and came within an eyelash of upsetting the league leading Pana Panthers last Thursday evening, Oct. 17, in a SCC conference matchup at Pana that went the way of the orange and blue as they held off the purple and white 28-26, 25-23 for the all important conference win.
It was "Volley for the Cure Night" at Pana High School and both teams donned pink jersey tops to commemorate the event.
With the win, Coach Greg Cothern's Pana Panthers are a perfect 7-0 in the South Central Conference and are looking to repeat as conference champions, having finished the 2018 season with an unblemished 9-0 record. Litchfield is at the bottom of the SCC in search of their first conference win.
For the first few minutes of Thursday's match it appeared that it would be the hosts who would grab the all important first set win against Litchfield as they built an early 9-3 lead, but the visiting Panthers didn't waver and tied the score at 14.
With junior Cara Pence at the service line, Litchfield would rattle off the next four points with an ace serve by Pence and kills from outside hitter Jordan Morgan and middle hitter Becky Painter. Throw in a great back row save by Kate Komor that led to a point and Litchfield had an 18-14 lead before Pana's Jillian Hamilton downed a kill and cut the deficit to 18-15 following a Pana timeout.
An out of bounds attack returned the serve to Litchfield and the visitors extended their lead to 20-15. It was Jillian Hamilton who would again rack up another big kill that returned the ball to Pana.
With Rachel Holthaus at the service line, Natalie Stauder got the offense rolling with a big hit and Pana knotted the score at 22. A serve in the net gave Litchfield a 23-22 lead and the ball but a service error gave the ball right back to Pana and with the score tied at 23.
Litchfield would be the benefactor a of bad hit from Pana for point 24. Needing just a single point to take the set, Litchfield could not capitalize as Becky Painter's attack landed outside the end line and it was Pana's turn.
With Carsen Sims at the service line, the two teams traded points from out of bounds spikes. Cara Pence gave Litchfield a 26-25 lead with a kill that was answered with a Stauder spike off the block that landed out of bounds. The next two points went to Pana and the set ended 28-26.
Pana would serve first in the second set and the hosts again held the upper hand in the set as they built leads of 7-3, 12-7, and 14-8 before Coach Heigert called for a Litchfield timeout. A four hit call against Pana and an ace serve from Cara Pence drew Litchfield to within two before Carsen Sims executed a back row spike for a side out and point.
Pana would extend their lead to 18-12 before Litchfield would piece together a mini-run that included two ace serves by Mallory Beechler. Clinging to a single digit 18-17 lead, Coach Cothern used his first of two timeouts and it proved beneficial as Carsen Sims would draw a side out and point from a spike off the Litchfield defense that landed out of bounds.
The two teams traded points before Pana grabbed a 20-18 edge after a touch call against Litchfield on a Pana attack.
Emily Senjan provided Litchfield with point 19 on a well placed attack that split the Pana defense, but Litchfield would lose possession from a joust at the net that fell on their side and the score was tied at 20 and again at 21. Becky Painter's block at the net gained point 22 for Litchfield and possession.
With Devan Morgan at the service line, Litchfield got a point from an out of bounds Pana attack, which prompted Coach Cothern to call his second timeout of the set. Again a break in the action generated a point for Pana as Lainey Hicks laid down a spike for a point and a big Pana possession.
With Brayer Denton at the service line and Pana trailing 23-22, the orange and blue rattled off the next three points in succession and escaped a purple and white bullet.
Litchfield also played in the Civic Memorial Tournament over the weekend. Results and a recap of those games will be in the Thursday, Oct. 24 edition of The Journal-News.
Litchfield will close out the season with an away game at Hillsboro on Tuesday before hosting the Carlinville Cavaliers on Thursday. Their post season play will take them to the Auburn Regional that begins on October 28.
The Pana Panthers have back-to back traveling days as they play at Taylorvillle tonight and Vandalia on Tuesday before they play host to Hillsboro on Thursday.
October 17 at Pana
Litchfield 26 23
Pana 28 25
Service Points: Devan Morgan 8, Emily Senjan 8, Cara Pence 8, Mallory Beechler 7, Becky Painter 5, Jordan Morgan 2. Ace Serves: Cara Pence 3, Mallory Beechler 2, Jordan Morgan 1. Kills: Jordan Morgan 4, Emily Senjan 3, Becky Painter 3, Cara Pence 3. Assists: Devan Morgan 4. Blocks: Becky Painter 3, Emily Senjan 1. Digs: Devan Morgan 9, Becky Painter 7, Jordan Morgan 4, Carson Jackson 3, Kate Komor 3, Mallory Beechler 2, Emily Senjan 1, Cara Pence 1.
Service Points: Rachel Holthaus 9, Alivia Reed 9, Brayer Denton 5, Jillian Hamilton 3. Ace Serves: Jillian Hamilton 1, Rachel Holthaus 1, Alivia Reed 1. Kills: Jillian Hamilton 9, Careen Sims 6, Lainey Hicks 3, Natalie Stauder 3. Assists: Alivia Reed 12, Rachel Holthaus 8. Blocks: Lainey Hicks 2, Natalie Stauder 2, Kiley Ladage 1, Jillian Hamilton 1, Camryn Adams 1. Digs: Brayer Denton 11, Carsen Sims 8, Jillian Hamilton 5, Rachel Holthaus 4.
Records: Litchfield (6-16, 0-7).