Panthers finish conference play a perfect 11-0
MANTENO -- It wasn’t exciting, but as long as it’s a win, Manteno doesn’t mind.
The Panthers, who were playing in their eighth game in eight days, showed power and some finesse on their way to a straight-set victory 25-17, 25-18 over I-8 rival Streator on Tuesday night to close the regular season.
The victory now gives them a 28-7 record and leaves them a perfect 11-0 in the conference, which earns them the Interstate Eight conference crown.
“This team has worked really hard, and the results have shown,” Manteno coach Cheryl Davis said. “We have four seniors and eight juniors who have really gelled and are hitting their stride. We’ll continue working on things such as our passing and blocking with tournaments approaching and hopefully whenever opportunities come, we can put the ball away.”
It took Manteno a while to find the right combination of power and ball placement right out of the gate.
A lot of their hits sailed early, which allowed Streator to take an early 9-7 lead. Kaycie Wenzel recorded a block to tie the game at 11, and that seemed to spark something.
“We played OK,” Davis said. “I thought we could have played with a little more intensity and enthusiasm; however, I felt good about what we did, and I feel good about how we’re playing right now. We executed well, and that’s really all you really want to see.”
Leading 15-13, Madie Monk got a block of her own, followed by back-to-back kills, and Wenzel served an ace for a 4-1 run, pushing the lead to 18-14.
Brandi Woods served consecutive aces and led the Panthers on a 6-2 run that closed out the first set.
“Madie (Monk) has really come a long way this season,” Davis said. “Everything seems to be coming together with her game. She’s hitting the ball really smart and well. Her blocking has been effective, and it’s something we as a team count on, so I was glad to see her step up as a senior when things got a little tight as only a senior would.”
It was the same song and dance in the second set.
The Bulldogs rallied and took the lead 14-13 in hopes of gaining momentum to force a third set, but it was not meant to be as the Panthers rallied on a 5-0 run to retake the lead 18-14 and cruised from that point to a conference title.
″(Streator) runs a different defense than a lot of other teams do,” Davis said. “We had to make adjustments on the way we hit and mix some things up offensively, but that’s what you want. You want to face a team who is going push and challenge you, which they did.”
Alyse Crowe led the way with 11 digs and eight kills. Amanda Crowley finished with 11 assists and eight digs, and Brandi Woods totaled 11 assists and two aces.
Alyssa Crowley had 14 digs and Wenzel added six digs. Monk and Ashlee Wesselhoff each powered five kills, and Maddy Yeates added four kills of her own.
Manteno will play again on Tuesday in its opening tournament game of the Class 3A Manteno Regional.