By Pete Temple, Express Sports Editor
With Monticello one set away from being eliminated by Cascade in the Class 2A, Region 6 volleyball tournament, Panther head coach Nicolette Wennekamp asked the team to remember its good times this season.
“I had the girls think back to our best matches of the season,” Wennekamp said. “We shared some reasons why we played so well during those matches. I told them that they needed to believe in themselves and each other, and after the match to feel like they did the best they could.”
Monticello did put up a strong fight in the third set against Tri-Rivers Conference regular season champion Cascade. But the Cougars prevailed, as the Panthers lost 6-25, 16-25, 22-25 in the regional quarterfinals Monday, Oct. 22 at Cascade.
Cascade took advantage of Monticello’s mistakes in winning the first set.
In the second set, the teams were tied 4-4, but Cascade went on a 15-5 run to lead 19-9, and the Panthers never got closer than seven points behind after that.
“We had a really slow start, and our passing was off in the first two sets,” Wennekamp said. “We also struggled with our serves. We didn’t play like a team, and our communication was poor.”
The third set was different. Monticello held early leads of 6-3 and 8-6. Even after Cascade rallied to take a 22-16 lead, the Panthers fought back.
Down 19-23, Monticello reeled off three straight points on two Cascade errors and a big block by Nicole Monck.
The Cougars fought back once more, however, closing out the match with a kill from Katelyn Green and a Monticello error.
“We came out the third game playing like we can,” Wennekamp said. “It’s unfortunate it took us two games to get to that point.”
The team was busy defensively, with 42 total digs. Sydney Owen led the Panthers with 14, followed by Erin Hosch with eight, Allison Kraus with seven, Hannah Thompson with five and Traci Plummer with four.
Hosch had 17 assists. Kraus led the team in kills with seven, and Monck had five. Emma Lubben had three aces. Hosch served 9-for-10, Kraus was 6-for-6 and Thompson was 4-for-4.
Monticello finished 4-5 in the Tri-Rivers Conference, and went 8-18 overall.
“We had some ups and downs during the season, but overall these girls had fun and learned to play as a team,” Wennekamp said. “Our record doesn’t show how talented this team really was, but we tried to learn from our mistakes and grow from them.
“Next year we will have a young team with a lot of upcoming talent. It will be exciting to watch them grow and mature as athletes.”
PHOTO: Emma Lubben of Monticello hits the ball over the net in the regional quarterfinal match Oct. 22 at Cascade. (Photo by Pete Temple)