With their high school volleyball careers on the line, the Ellsworth seniors did exactly what they’ve been known for during their four years as Panthers: fight.
Down 2-0 in their WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal game against the No. 3-seeded Altoona Railroaders, the Panthers came back to win Set 3 and 4 to give themselves a chance at upsetting their playoff hosts on Thursday, Oct. 24.
“We definitely put up a good fight,” Panthers’ head coach Nicole Vande Berg said. “Our seniors really ended the season playing a good game.”
However, their final fight fell short.
The Panthers dropped Set 1 25-21 before going on to miss seven serves in their 25-22 Set 2 loss. Vande Berg saw her team play to its potential in its 25-17 and 25-19 Set 3 and 4 wins, but a 15-8 Set 5 loss cut their comeback short.
“In Sets 3 and 4 we showed the way we can play and that we definitely were not only capable of playing with them but winning,” Vande Berg said. “I always feel like Set 5 is a toss up and ultimately that set came down to a couple of points here and there. We started out rough offensively in the first two sets, but the last three we played well and our offense at times was pretty impressive.”
Vande Berg specifically mentioned senior Claire Kummer who played the best game of her four-year career against the Railroaders in Vande Berg’s opinion.
Overall, Vande Berg compared the 2019 season to a “roller coaster” and believes her team fell short of accomplishing what it wanted to in the wins column but said she definitely saw team and individual growth as the season progressed.
Growth will be necessary for the 2020 Panther team considering what they’ll be missing from this year’s senior class.
“This senior class is so talented physically that they will be so hard to replace,” Vande Berg said. “They have been together for so long and played together so much that they often act more like sisters than they do teammates. They are just a fun group of kids to be around. They can work hard when they need to, and also joke around with each other.
“More than the volleyball, I will miss them as people.”
The Railroaders will continue their season on Saturday, Oct. 26, with a road game against the No. 2-seeded Bloomer Blackhawks who defeated No. 7-seeded Rice Lake in four sets on Thursday night.
The Prescott Cardinals were also eliminated from the Division 2 playoffs on Thursday after being swept 3-0 (25-14, 25-20, 25-22) against the No. 1-seeded Osceola Chieftains. Prescott advanced to Thursday’s regional semifinal game after defeating No. 9-seeded Amery 3-0 on Tuesday night.
MORE PLAYOFF RESULTS
The No. 10-seeded Spring Valley Cardinals’ season came to an end on Tuesday night after they were defeated 3-1 (25-21, 25-27, 25-22, 25-22) by the No. 7-seeded Westby Blackhawks in their Division 3 regional quarterfinal game.
The No. 7-seeded Elmwood/Plum City Wolves were eliminated from the Division 4 playoffs after losing 3-1 (25-18, 25-22, 21-25, 26-24) to the No. 10-seeded Greenwood Indians on Tuesday.
“Once again, we had some spots where we played very well together, but when we didn't gel together as a team, we struggled,” EPC’s head coach Amanda Webb said. “We definitely had ample opportunity to win, we just could not find a way to finish. Overall, the first year of the co-op went well. Our JV and C teams played well this year, and I am looking for us to come back stronger next as a solidified team and be even more competitive. ”