Looking at the rosters of St. Mary's Colgan, Girard and Anderson County, there's a strong chance you will see the same players next year.
Girard features three seniors (Audrey Bauer, Tristan Broce and Hannah Jones), Colgan two (Sydney Beck and Kelly Smith) and Anderson County one (Reanna Romig).
The combination of youth and youthful experience was on display Tuesday night during the triangular at St. Mary's Colgan Fieldhouse.
A couple weeks into the season, Colgan swept Anderson County 2-0 (25-21, 25-11) and Girard 2-0 (25-15, 25-17) to improve to 7-4. The Panthers have won six of their last seven matches, displaying progress early in the season.
“That was one of the things (we talked about) after our very first matches opening night,” Colgan head coach Cathy Oplotnik said. “We talked about what we need to work on and we came to practice and started working on those. We feel like every time we came out to play, we have improved in different parts of the game each time. That's going to be our goal. We can continue to improve on those small things and we can be able to get all the other things done too.”
In the opening match, Colgan and Anderson County went back and forth for the majority of the first set before the Panthers broke a 18-all tie with four straight points for a 22-18 edge and after Anderson County cut the lead to 23-21, Kylee Duncan hit a kill and Anderson County was unable to return on set point.
The second was less of a contest and Colgan finished off Anderson County 25-11.
Haydn Dawson led Colgan with eight kills and Duncan loomed tall on the front row with six kills and six blocks. Sydney Beck added five kills and Alex Minton blended in seven assists with her three kills. Kelly Smith had seven assists. Madison Marietta led with four digs, Emily Paterni added three and Aliee Story one.
Girard (8-6) fell to Anderson County in three sets (25-23, 18-25, 10-25) and struggled in both matches with serve receive.
“I think we for sure need to increase our serve receive percentage,” Girard head coach Lori Ferguson said. “Start getting some more three-tempo passes and some more two-tempo passes to our setters . . . we can run an offense because we do have a pretty nice offense. We were just unable to convert on those things.”
The Trojans led 14-4 in the first set against Anderson County, ironically on a pair of aces by setter Trisha Elder for the double-digit advantage. The Bulldogs fought their way back to 24-23 on the strength of serving by Reagan Jirak, Alexis Pedrow and Reanna Romig.
Girard finished off the first 25-23 with a kill down the line by Megan Gray but the Bulldogs took over in the middle set and controlled the final set, including aces by Romig, Jessica McCullar, MaKayla Kueser and Kinlee Jones.
Page 2 of 2 - The Trojans played again without a key senior on Tuesday night.
“We have a young team partly because of injuries,” Ferguson said. “We've got our senior libero, Hannah Jones, out to a concussion two weeks ago in Columbus. She got dinged a couple times and one of our seniors (Tristan Broce) was out last week and the week before so we're just kind of getting her back in. The freshmen have kind of had to step up and they're also pushing our upperclassmen to do better.
“She's a very vocal person (Jones) and I count on that and so do the other kids on the team.”
The southpaw Minton led Colgan with four aces against Girard and Beck added two, both coming to close out the match with the Trojans.
Beck led the offensive attack with four kills, Duncan played strong at the net with three kills and three blocks and Dawson, Halee Pace and Story each added two kills. Minton had eight assists and Smith five. Paterni led with four kills, Story added two and Marietta had one.
Three of the four Colgan losses have come against state qualifiers from last season, Chanute and Frontenac (Class 4A) and Southeast (3A).
“When I look at our schedule and our losses, we've lost against some very good teams,” Oplotnik said. “I feel like we've competed and we've beat some very good teams, as well. That builds our confidence. If we keep building our confidence, hopefully we'll continue to get some more wins.”