Local and visiting sports fans were treated to an exciting District 1A-8 High Desert League volleyball tournament Oct. 20 at Grant Union Junior-Senior High School in John Day.
The No. 4-seed Prairie City Panthers started the tournament by defeating their cross-county rival and No. 5-seed Dayville/Monument Tigers in four competitive sets with numerous lead changes, 25-17, 20-25, 25-18 and 25-20.
Panther juniors Rilee Emmel and Emily Ennis had several powerful spikes, but the Tigers responded with good blocks at the net, especially by freshman Aubreianna Osborne.
The Tigers went on to defeat the Harper Charter Hornets in the consolation round, 25-9 and 25-12.
“I’m really proud of them,” Tiger head coach Kristi Emerson said. “They did well as a team.”
The Tigers, with a short roster and two seniors, pressured the Panthers with good blocks and long rallies, Emerson said, but they missed some important serves.
“I saw some great teamwork and great spirit,” Emerson said.
Panther head coach Jordan Bass said her team was doing well and found the scoring drive to win the game against Dayville/Monument.
“We stayed mentally tough,” she said. “There was some good and bad, but we handled it the way I wanted to.”
Next up for the Panthers was No. 1-seed Jordan Valley. The Panthers lost to the Mustangs during the season in three close sets.
“When we’re on, we can’t be beat,” Panther assistant coach Lance Zweygardt said ahead of the game.
The Mustangs won the round in three sets, 25-22, 25-11 and 25-17. Jordan Valley got ahead early in the first set, but Prairie City fought to maintain a 4-point margin. The play intensified with back-and-forth serves as the Panthers clawed back to within 3 points at the end of the set.
Mustang junior Becky Mackenzie’s tough serving gave Jordan Valley a 9-2 lead early in the second set. The Panthers battled back and got within striking distance midway through the set, but the Mustangs picked up their pace for the 14-point win.
The Panthers took an early lead in the third set, but the Mustangs rallied and tied the score at 8 apiece. Mackenzie’s serving then picked apart the Prairie City defense to end the set.
No. 3-seed Adrian upset No. 2 Crane in a tough 3-2 game, setting up Prairie City and Crane for the third-place round. The Mustangs had defeated the Panthers in season play 3-1, and the Prairie City roster was down for the tournament with four injured players.
The Panthers jumped ahead early in the first set on sophomore Katie Hire’s serving. The Mustangs tied the score several times, and the set went into extra points with the Panthers winning 26-24.
Crane won the next three sets, 25-15, 25-17 and 25-17, but the scores could have been worse if not for the Mustangs’ poor serving. Crane had a powerful front line, including sophomore Riley Davis and senior Katie Burns.
But Hire, who went on to be named First Team All Tournament, rose to the occasion with several spectacular blocks and strikes against the Mustangs.
“We had a big uphill battle,” Bass said after the game. “We competed well and tried our hardest.”
This was Bass’ first year as a volleyball head coach, and she was optimistic about next year’s team.
“We had no starting seniors this year,” she said. “We’re in a good position for next year.”
Tournament highlights included Hire with 11 aces, 90 percent serving and 20 kills; Ennis with 92 percent serving, 18 kills and 84 percent hitting; Emmel with 91 percent serving and 18 kills; and sophomore Caitlin Willet with 93 percent serving and 88 percent serve-receive and passing. Willet also had the most serves for the team.
In addition to Hire being named First Team All Tournament, Ennis and Tiger senior Faythe Schafer were named Second Team All Tournament, and the Prairie City Panthers received the Sportsmanship Award.
Jordan Valley defeated the Adrian Antelopes in a competitive final round 3-2. Jordan Valley, Adrian and Crane will go on to the state tournament.