PUEBLO WEST, LA JUNTA — The John Mall Lady Panthers volleyball team completed their best season in several years. They made it to the second round of the district tournament, only to face some tough competition.
To first get to the district playoff rounds, the Panthers faced Swallows Charter Academy Tuesday, October 22 in Pueblo West. The Spartans are an independent team which had the opportunity to compete as an independent in the playoff rounds despite their 0-11 season. The Lady Spartans were no match for the Panthers and John Mall won easily in three sets.
Coach Lamberson showed the highest level of sportsmanship in the second and third games as she started her junior varsity and members of the ‘C’ team to play against the outmanned Spartan team. While the Spartans had no chance of being victorious against the more dominant Panther team, John Mall gave every member of the team a chance to experience competing in a playoff game and allowed the Spartans to stay in the games.
That pigtail matchup allowed the Panthers to move on in competition at La Junta High where they participated in a six team round robin tournament, being guaranteed two matches. They needed to win both first, then one other to advance in the next round of the state playoffs, but they drew the Fowler Grizzlies in game one.
Fowler entered the tournament as the number three team in the state, and as expected, won the tournament to move on to regional action. The Grizzlies lost their number one ranking to Resurrection Christian three weeks ago and were looking to make a statement.
As far as upsets are concerned, the District 6 tournament saw plenty of upsets. Unfortunately for the Lady Panthers, they were defeated by Fowler in three games. Throughout play, the John Mall Panthers hung in there with one of the best teams in the state, giving Fowler more than they could handle, but ultimately the Lady Cats could not overcome the hard hitting kills and blocking by Grizzlies Jacylin Sallee and Lindsay Moss.
In the next matchup, the Hoehne Farmers also took the Cats in three games, eliminating them from the tournament. Hoehne twice defeated the Panthers in regular season and of all the teams the Panthers had a chance of beating in the tourney, it was the Farmers. The tournament was not without surprises, however, as Rye defeated Swink to advance to the next round.
For the season, the John Mall Lady Panthers had their best performances, going 10-12 overall and 6-8 in the league. Their six league wins this year also represent the best league performance in recent years. The Panthers played many close games and could easily have finished the season with a 14-8 record and third in the league.
The Panthers are a relatively young team and their seniors helped to contribute to the success of the team, while at the same time they were teachers and leaders to the younger players. The varsity team included three freshmen and one sophomore who will bring experience to the team next season. The younger members of the team will be the bright and successful future of the Panther volleyball program and will become a team their competitors will not take lightly in the years to come.
Members of the entire team, including Junior Varsity and the C teams include the following young women: Seniors Karlie Lasley, Kayleigh Espinoza, Amy Vallejos and Symone Sierra. Juniors include Michealla Trujillo, Sarah Encinias, Alyssa Sandoval, Bryanna Berger, Regina Matchett and Destinee Summers. Sophomores include Shyanne Urdiales, Courtney Bradsby and Heidi Reynolds. Freshmen include Autumn Valdez, Kaylee Summers, Erika Bradsbury, Mariana Espinoza, Jacqueline Santisteven, Andrea Torres, Tyra Trujillo, Alyssa Benine, Olivia Cabrerra, Robyn Berger, Alyiah Valerio, Kiah Trujillo, Cailin Worley, Kaela Martinez, Taylor Ruiz and Santana Trujillo.