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St. Croix Central volleyball team satisfied with season's final effort

St. Croix Central’s Haylee Hawke (3) passes the ball over the net while teammate Kayla Pabst looks on during the Panthers’ playoff match in New Richmond last Tuesday.

As a number seven seed, girls on the St. Croix Central volleyball team knew odds were heavily stacked against them when they faced second seed New Richmond in the opening round of the WIAA Division 2 regional playoffs last Tuesday.

The Panthers put up a good fight, losing to the Tigers 25-14, 25-10, 25-16.

Central coach Laura Lee said her players were satisfied with the fact they gave their best effort in the loss.

The Panthers went into the match with a new defensive strategy. Knowing that New Richmond has strong left-side hitters, the Panthers moved senior Kayla Pabst to the right side to put up a strong block against the Tiger hitters. With Pabst and middle hitters Madison Malecek and Abby Harrington, the Panthers were able to get hands on a good percentage of New Richmond’s hits. Those touches slowed the ball down so the Panther back row players could dig them up more easily.

Lee said the Panthers didn’t back down on their hitting attempts against the tall New Richmond lineup. She said leftside hitters Breanna Danielson and Rachel Larson, along with the middle hitters, all did their best to find ways around New Richmond’s block attempts.

With three seniors, the Panthers are a young team. The seniors (Pabst, Nicole Nogal and Ayla Granberg) provided poise for the young Panther team. Pabst played in a number of roles along the front line as one of the team’s most experienced hitters.

“Kayla was always a presence,” Lee said.

Lee said Nogal and Granberg could be plugged in anywhere in the lineup and she knew she’d get a reliable performance.

“They’re both consistent and calm. They could be worked in anywhere,” Lee said.

The Panthers return a large junior class, including Malecek and Sadie Buckel, who were among the team’s captains this season. Lee said the expectations of the team are being upped for next season.

“I told the girls ‘the season starts now.’ We need to get into shape in the off-season,” said Lee, stating that she wants the girls in playing condition when next season begins. She said she wants the girls to be in other sports and be active in the school lifting program. Lee said she was pleased with the number of Panthers committed to playing Junior Olympic volleyball in the offseason.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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