Panthers win final regular season match on emotional senior nightEmotions were running high for Ellsworth High School's volleyball teanm's final regular season home match against Amery Tuesday, and this was due more than just being Senior Night.
By: Chris Harrell - Red Wing Republican-Eagle, Pierce County Herald
ELLSWORTH - A rocky week for Ellsworth came to a head Tuesday as the Panthers faced Amery.
Ellsworth’s starting libero quit over the weekend and it shook the team’s lineup. Players and coaches emotions ran high and an Amery team that was winless in Middle Border Conference play provided a dangerous test for the Panthers.
“We’ve had a rough week,” Ellsworth head coach Tanya Powers said. “We had a player quit and the dynamics of the team are affected. … We wanted to prove we’re still a team and we can do this.”
And Ellsworth (3-4 Middle Border) found vindication, but it did not come easily. It took five sets, but the Panthers found the win they were looking for; 25-27, 25-12, 25-9, 19-25, 15-13.
“It was key for our team to win this,” Ellsworth junior Olivia Helmer said. “Our coach had so much faith in us. It was exactly what we had to do.”
Helmer led the team with 25 set assists and added four kills. Senior Mackenzie Diercks contributed a team-leading 15 kills and 24 digs, while senior Morgan Christopherson finished with five kills, 23 digs and four ace serves.
Powers started all her seniors on the final night of the regular season and it impacted the Panthers as they had difficulty developing momentum with a different lineup.
“It shouldn’t affect us but obviously it did,” Powers said.
Amery (0-7 Middle Border) took advantage of three service errors by Ellsworth in the first set, and seven lead changes later Amery won 27-25.
In the second set, the two teams traded leads until the Panthers finally clicked offensively and improved their service game. Diercks and Helmer found a connection and Ellsworth dominated the second and third sets.
“The two sets we took control is because we had such aggressive serving,” Powers said.
But after big victories in the second and third sets, Powers wanted to get her bench more playing time again, but it backfired. Amery took control of the fourth set and sent the match to a fifth set.
“That was disappointing,” Powers said. “We put ourselves in a tough spot.”
The final set was dazzling display of defense by both teams. Ellsworth grabbed the lead first and extended it to 8-5, but Amery immediately went on a 5-0 run to jump ahead 10-8. A service error by Amery’s Emily Willert, following an ace, opened the door for the Panthers. Four ties and three lead changes followed before Ellsworth, leaping and screaming, had its emotional victory.
“Both teams were fighting,” Powers said. “It came down to who wanted it more and we wanted it more than they did. We really had something to prove.”
Ellsworth senior Riley Harrison had eight kills and junior Meghan Schroeder provided 14 set assists, two kills and a team-high seven ace serves. Junior Latacia Kuhl finished with seven kills in the victory.
Regional voting took place Wednesday morning and regional playoffs will begin on Oct. 16.
“This (match) gave us the confidence we needed going into Regionals,” Helmer said. “We knew we were the better team and it showed in the end.”