DU QUOIN — Facing quite an atmosphere and an inspired opponent Thursday night, Pinckneyville’s volleyball team quickly fell behind Du Quoin 7-2, fueling a large crowd and a rowdy student section.
Then the Panthers quieted them by getting back into system and feeding their plethora of power hitters at the net, leading to a 25-21, 25-18 SIRR Mississippi win.
In upping its record to 13-7 overall and 2-0 in the conference, Pinckneyville flashed its balance. Lily Tanner shouldered the load in the first game with six kills, while Bella Pasquino added four. Kassidy Lee stepped up in the second game with five kills and Payton Morgan chipped in three, including match point.
“We have five good front row hitters, which gives (setter) Elaine (Shaneyfelt) a lot of options,” Panthers coach Cathy Kohnen said. “She did a good job finding the best matchup to go to tonight. I’m proud of how these girls dug deep tonight.”
The Auxiliary Gym was about 70 percent full, creating a wall of noise any time the Indians (12-3, 3-1) got on a run. And it was loud right off the bat.
With sophomore Lauren Heape serving aggressively and accurately, Du Quoin rattled off seven straight points. Heape delivered consecutive aces and forced a bad pass after another serve, requiring Kohnen to burn an early timeout.
The margin was still 10-6 when Pinckneyville delivered a series of silencers. Tanner stepped to the service line and drilled consecutive aces to give the Panthers a 13-11 lead, their first one since 2-1. The Indians remained game, scrapping for points by using a variety of tips to supplement an occasional hard one, but Pinckneyville just had too many options for them.
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An 8-2 run which saw five Panthers notch a kill – Du Quoin offered help with three hitting errors – gave the visitors the cushion they needed to wrap up the opening game.
Heape again provided the Indians with a spark at the service line to start the second game, rattling off an ace among four straight points. Heape’s kill off a Sophie Miller set upped the Du Quoin lead to 11-6. Kohnen didn’t throw her team a lifeline timeout, but knew they need to come up with a response sooner instead of later.
“We had to get into fifth gear real quick,” she said. “You don’t want to mess with a third set.”
Her players sensed it too. So did Indians coach Isaac Miller, who asked for a timeout after his team’s lead slipped to 12-10. It didn’t help one bit. Morgan and Pasquino sandwiched kills around a double stuff block by Lee and Pasquino.
Pinckneyville essentially played downhill for the match’s remainder, grabbing a 19-13 lead after Addie Waggoner poached a long pass for a kill. Du Quoin fought back within 21-18, but four more Panther points sealed the verdict.
Lee and Morgan each finished with seven kills for Pinckneyville, which also got five apiece from Morgan and Pasquino.
“We try to learn something in every game,” Kohnen said. “You constantly have to adapt your game and keep working together in order to improve.”