Panthers drop five-set match to Durango
Pennecoose records 19 kills, plays well in loss
Regardless of the time, regardless of the place, one thing is certain. When the Montezuma-Cortez High School volleyball team plays the Durango Demons, excitement is bound to ensue.
Competing against their arch rivals Thursday, Oct. 3, the Panthers put on a show, but in the end, could not pull out the victory in a close 25-17, 14-25, 22-25, 26-24, 7-15 loss.
As has been the pattern for the Panthers this season, the team came out on fire in the first set, jumping out to a 9-4 lead following a pretty spike by sophomore Kristin Pierce off a beautiful quick set by sophomore Laurel Chappell.
After continuing to apply pressure to the visiting Demons, the Panthers would eventually secure a 25-17 first-set victory after a serving error by Demons’ freshman Maddie Robertson.
“I think we were just clear-minded,” said Panthers’ junior Abby Chupp, describing her team’s play in the first set. “We just gave it our all, and we had nothing holding us back.”
The second set did not go nearly as well for the Panthers, as the team fell behind 10-5 following a block by Demons’ senior Jessie Brammer. A spike by Brammer extended the Demons’ lead to 23-13 and following a hitting error by Panthers’ junior Beth Brown, the Demons would win the second set 25-14.
“I think that our serve receive got us into some points where we couldn’t run our offense,” Panthers’ senior Mikkel Waltman said. If we had a serve receive that was more consistent, I think we would have ended up better.”
Looking better to begin the third set, the Panthers pulled ahead 12-8 early and later led 18-17 following a nice spike down the middle by junior Naomi Pennecoose. The Demons would refuse to give in, however, and following two costly hitting errors by Waltman, the Panthers fell 25-22.
“(Waltman) is a 5’6 person trying to hit middle against 6-foot blockers,” said coach Chappell. “It’s really hard. We don’t have a lot of height on our team, so (Waltman), by default, has had to play middle.”
With their backs against the wall in the fourth set, the Panthers produced some of their best play of the season, trailing 18-22 before going on a spirited run to capture a 26-24 set victory.
Keying the Panthers’ late-set run was the stellar play of Pennecoose, who ignited the crowd with multiple hard spikes and several impressive digs.
“(Pennecoose) is a game changer on defense,” said coach Chappell. “She does stuff all over. She hit well, and she has to do that. It’s a lot of pressure, but she really does a good job of stepping up.”
Unfortunately for Pennecoose and the Panthers, momentum from their fourth-set victory did not carry over to the fifth set as the team allowed multiple Demons’ aces before falling 15-7.
“It’s mental,” said Chappell of her team’s inability to handle Demons’ serves in the fifth set. “We had been serve-receiving them all night long. We just got nervous. Those are mental errors that we cannot have happen anymore.”
Statistical leaders for the Panthers included Pennecoose with 19 kills, Chupp with 14 digs and Laurel Chappell with 37 assists.
Next up for the Panthers are home matchups against Grand Junction Central (Oct. 11) and Fruita Monument (Oct. 12).
Sam Green/Cortez Journal