by David Tesitor
WALSENBURG- The John Mall Lady Panther volleyball team won their third conference game last weekend as they defeated the Rocky Ford Meloneers in three games: 25-8, 25-23 and 25-18. This league win keeps the Panthers in the middle of the pack.
The win set the Panthers solidly in sixth place as they enter the first round of the district tournament next Tuesday. Their opponent has not been determined at presstime, but their likely opponent will be Rye.
The tenacity of play last Saturday excited the hometown crowd, which cheered on their team to come-from-behind wins in both the second and third games.
In game one, it looked like the Lady Cats would have an easy time with the Meloneers when John Mall opened up a 9 to 2 lead before the side out put the serve in the hands of Rocky Ford. A strong kill by senior Alex Tenorio, her first of six in the match gave the ball back to the Panthers who led 13-3. Rocky Ford mounted a minor comeback effort before a side out gave the serve to Panther Krista Cordova. Leading 14-8, Cordova served eleven straight points to seal the win.
In the second game, the Panthers had trouble controlling the volley off the serve of the Meloneers. When the Cats had a side out, they immediately turned the ball back to Rocky Ford. At one point in the game, the Panthers trailed by as many as seven points.
Trailing 20-13, the Panthers served up four points before another turnover gave the Meloneers the ball, but they could not take advantage. Trailing 22-18, Tenorio stepped up to the service line and got the six points the Cats needed to win. The offensive volleys on the part of the entire Panther team kept the control in the hands of the Panthers.
With JM leading 24-22, the Meloneers took the side out to try a rally, but a Natalie Neece kill gave the victory to the Panthers.
Trailing by three early in the third game, the Panther momentum carried over as both teams traded points until Panther Karlie Lasley won four points, including an ace to tie the game at ten. From there Lasley served an additional five points to blow the game wide open. Within the run, Angie Brietweiser had a block, Neece a kill. By then the Panthers led 15-10 and never looked back.
On Tuesday, the Panthers lost to Las Animas in five closely fought games. The set went down to the final game. The Panthers and Trojans went back and forth in the third and forth set, trading scores. John Mall had a chance to win the game in the fourth match as the two schools could not earn the advantage. Las Animas finally pulled ahead at the end, forcing the fifth game. The final scores were 25-18, 19-25, 25-22,26-28 and 8-15. The final game of the season is tonight in Hoehne. Next week, district action begins. Be sure to check out the Facebook page on when and who the Panthers will play in the first round of district action.