SPOKANE — The Wenatchee Panther volleyball team picked up a non-league victory Saturday over the 4A Central Valley Bears, which play in the Greater Spokane League. The Panthers won in straight sets, 27-25, 25-18 and 25-19.
“They are a pretty good team. We lost to them last year. They are in the top half of their league. I saw them at a tournament this year, so I knew they were pretty good. I knew it would be a pretty good match between us,” said Assistant Coach Marni McMahon, who coached the team as Head Coach Connor Metcalfe was not available.
The first set was really tight as the Bears took a 21-17 lead. Freshman Ashton McMahon served back to back aces and won four serve points to get Wenatchee back to even at 21-21. The two teams remained tied to 25-25.
Then Wenatchee junior Tessa White served out the set for the 27-25 win. It was a huge momentum killer for Central Valley.
“They had us but could not handle our two servers. That just threw them off. They were deflated going into sets two and three.” McMahon said. “They are a physically solid volleyball team. They have some powerful hitters. I think they thought they were going to run over us. They just couldn’t handle our serves.”
The big difference, McMahon said, was their hitters all hit over .250 something they had not done all year, where everyone was swinging well.
“That is a huge improvement. Our serving was one of the best matches all year,” she said. “We really targeted their weak passers and got them out of system. They were probably out of system 75-percent of the night...just with our tough serves.”
Emily Redman, Abby Black, Alex Toth, and Ashton McMahon combined for 40 kills. McMahon said their serve-receive was just average, not much improved.
But the setters, Irelyn Branam and Madison Johnson, were outstanding.
“They did a wonderful job of running an offense even out of system,” McMahon said. “All our hitters were really able to swing tough, even out of system. Even though we’re out of system, we were 2.0 as a team. We want to be at 2.5. They were just really good converting points out of system.”
Even though CV was the team with the dominant hitters, Wenatchee bested them with solid serving and great passing, which is how the Panthers need to play to win.
“We have to do really well from the serving line and really well passing. The other thing we did to capture the win. They run a rotation defense. When you run that, there are a lot of holes. With our hitters, we made a lot of off-speed shots to a lot of holes on their side of the net,” she said. “We really capitalized on their defense.”
Wenatchee improved to 6-2 overall. They are currently 5-1 in the Big 9. Central Valley fell to 4-3 overall. Next up for Wenatchee, a conference game at Sunnyside (0-5, 1-6) on Thursday.
McMahon said they just need to focus on themselves Thursday night.
“If we can take care of our side of the net against Sunnyside, I don’t think it really matters what they do. There’s not a real match plan with them,” she said. “I would like to see our hitters above .250. I would like to see us serve and pass well. If we can do that, hopefully, we can be peaking by postseason.”