PANA -- Against Teutopolis' massive front line, Pana just played its game.
It was more than enough for the Panthers volleyball squad, which turned a 25-18, 25-19 win at home on Tuesday night.
"We really didn't change anything up," Pana coach Greg Cothern said. "Our girls can jump, regardless of our height, so we feel confident we can get up there and get high hands off blockers."
T-Town has several girls who stand at least six feet. Pana's tallest hitter comes in at 5-foot-8. But like they did last weekend, the Panthers (15-7) found their way around the Shoes' block or picked the ball up off T-Town's play at the net.
That culminated in a massive final point of the match. As Pana and Teutopolis traded what seemed like a dozen volleys back and forth, sophomore Kaylee Holland dumped the ball into an open space to finally seal Pana's win.
"It was crazy," Pana senior Colleen Weddle said. "It felt like it took forever. When it finally went down, it just felt so great."
Even with the loss of 6-foot Lexie Siegert to graduation, the loss of defense at the net hasn't gone with her. Claire Holthaus had four blocks, one of five Panthers to have at least two.
One of those Panthers was Jenna Dudra, who led Pana with eight kills on the night. The senior said T-Town's height wasn't in the back of her mind -- she just kept swinging.
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"All you have to do is watch their block and hit whatever way they're not going," she said. "But whenever you're in the game, you're so hyped up, you just hit."
Cothern said that intensity has been key so far this year. Coming off a regional championship last year with a team that didn't bring much varsity experience to the table was encouraging. Add that to a group that brings an intensity he loves, and it's made a strong start to the year.
"When we're in practice, even the most mundane drill in practice is turned into a competition," Cothern said. "Which is good, because it keeps things light. And I'll take a competitive group over a quiet group any day."
Dudra said she's not sure why this group's fire is always burning.
"I don't know. We're girls," she said. "We get angry at each other, so whenever we play each other in practice we want to beat each other really bad, start going at it."
Teutopolis' defense was mostly on point, but frequent hitting and serving errors kept the Shoes from finding any rhythm. After Pana steadily pulled away in the first set, T-Town had a lead at 11-10 in the second before the Panthers earned five straight points and never looked back. Julia Frey led the offense with six kills; Leah Jansen had four blocks.
Pana is a perfect 4-0 in conference play with all South Central foes left on the non-tournament schedule.
"It's coming together," Weddle said.