ANNA — Pinckneyville needed some help to hold off Chester in the first set and then jumped out to a big lead in the second to cruise to a 25-21, 25-10 victory to the win the Anna-Jonesboro class 2A volleyball regional championship Thursday night.
“The girls worked hard for this and we able to pull it through in the end,” said Pinckneyville coach Cathy Kohnen. “This is only the second regional the volleyball team has won so this is volleyball history. We’re really excited and the girls are proud and I’m super proud of them.”
Pinckneyville improved to 34-3 joining the 2013 team as regional champions and advances to the Nashville Sectional Monday to play Carlinville at 5:30 p.m.
“Our pattern has been to lay back in the second set and I’ve been working with them to not do that trying to impress on them when they get 15 points on the board it’s not over,” Kohnen said. “So I told them their goal was not to lay back and they did well.”
Senior outside hitter Emma Banach led the Panthers with nine kills, four in the first set and five in the second, and served up two aces on her final service to set up the match point.
“That’s pretty typical I try to go for five kills and above every game,” Banach said. “Yesterday we practiced serving deep and in the corners, because we knew their libero was decent, so tonight on my last time I did just that hoping I wouldn’t serve it out.”
Chester (24-8) took a 2-0 lead in the first set on two errors by the Panthers and maintained that lead at 10-8. The Panthers rallied back to with a 5-0 run to take a three-point lead and then extended it four on a kill by Banach.
The Yellow Jackets rallied back behind the serving of freshman Reese Chandler to tie the score for the seventh time at 16-16. With the score tied at 17 a double hit by Chester regained the lead for the Panthers for good.
Sarah Breslin then stepped behind the service line and served up three straight points to extend the lead back to four points, but once again the Yellow Jackets rallied back to pull within one point at 22-21 on an ace by Tayler Howie.
But three straight errors killed Chester’s chance for the come-from-behind win and handed the first set to Pinckneyville.
“We played point for point with them all the way through the first set, but then we started making some errors and they made none,” said Chester coach Adam Gibbs. “Their fans provided the energy and they kept getting better while we made too many mistakes to win.”
Sophomore Elaine Shaneyfelt began the second set behind the service line for Pinckneyville and behind two kills by Banach and two consecutive aces led the Panthers to a 6-0 lead.
“Elaine’s a gamer,” Kohnen said. “She’s been playing since she was a little, little kid. Her mom is Katie and she used to coach at Pinckneyville (2007-12), so she’s grown up playing ball. She ran cross county at state in grade school, so she knows how to work under pressure.”
The Panthers extended their lead to 20-10 when Banach started her fourth service. The senior kept the rally going with an ace and after another Chester error Kylee Kling stuffed Chandler for a kill. Banach then served up her second ace for match point.
On her fifth serve, the Yellow Jackets returned the ball. Kling was set up on the left side and she put the match away with a hard smash cross court.
Daisy Dudeck and Megan Breslin finished with five kills each for the Panthers. Katie Hoffman led Chester with four kills and Lauren Weige added three.