Between Katelyn Loecker and Briana Pontious, McPherson High’s volleyball team features a dominant frontline.
When Buhler’s hard-hitting Josie Williams and Macki Pankratz matched the Bullpups’ firepower at the net, the Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League match appeared headed for three games Tuesday night.
But the Bullpups’ ability to convert several accurate serves swung the late momentum in a 25-8, 25-22 victory Tuesday night. The Bullpups’ trio of Pontious, Paige Regnier and Tashley Snyder delivered the final three points. But crucial serving points by Megan Pedersen and Moira Pyle and a pair by Regnier rallied McPherson from an 18-15 deficit.
Last year’s Class 4A state runner-up McPherson (8-0, 2-0 AVCTL) held off pesky Buhler (3-5, 1-1) after ending the Crusaders’ season last year. It’s the start of a rivalry that will continue during the 2012 season.
In Tuesdy's other matches, McPherson defeated El Dorado 25-11, 25-6 and Buhler downed El Dorado 25-15, 25-19.
“We executed a few key serves where we wanted them and they were hit with some pace on them,” said McPherson coach Christy Doile. “Buhler definitely played better that second game. That’s more what I expected from Buhler. It shows us we’ve got some things to work on.”
McPherson executed its passing game that setter Pyle used to set up the 6-1 Loecker and Pontious for a dominating first game. McPherson kept the pressure on with precise serving and hitting. The Bullpups’ first hitting error came with McPherson ahead 19-5.
“That first game, we passed the ball extremely well and that set up our hitting game,” Doile said. “Our serve reception was very good. We executed really well that first game.”
Buhler coach Kara Voss saw her Crusaders match McPherson’s intensity and hustle after getting overpowered the first game.
“That first game we got down and didn’t react to that very well,” she said. “We were able to refocus our energy and gained some momentum and confidence. When we played our best, we showed we could play with McPherson. Now, we have to figure a way to finish the job and beat them.”
Macki Pankratz gave Buhler a boost with several timely winners and a clever dink. The Crusaders knew they were rolling when Pankratz blocked Loecker for a 13-8 lead. At times, Williams matched McPherson’s power with dominating play. McKenna Bessner chipped in with several timely winners.
“Josie Williams is one of the best hitters in the league,” Doile said. “I give all the credit to Buhler because they started playing really well. They played better defense and blocked us a couple of times.”
Voss liked how the Crusaders battled and fed off the positive energy. Williams hit a trio of winners for an 18-15 lead.
“Our passing picked up and started to make some plays at the net,” Voss said. “We were right there, so close to forcing a third game. As the season goes, we’ll find a way to finish a game like that. We’re building our program.”
Doile liked the way her team kept its poise and finished strong. But Regnier swung the momentum with a winner and two serves that were not returned. Snyder’s block handed McPherson the lead 21-20.
“It was the type of game where Buhler played really well and we had to battle, but it was good to see the way we finished the game,” Doile said.
McPherson travels to Augusta Sept. 4 and Buhler plays at Mulvane.