The Saratoga Sun -

Weekend woes stall Panther progress

 

Max Miller

Encampment center Paige Powell's (#14, black) dominant net-presence forces Saratoga to tip around her instead of trying to spike through her blocks.

Homecoming was a tough weekend for Saratoga High School athletics in general, and the volleyball team in particular. The Lady Panthers dropped key matches to conference rivals Encampment and Cokeville and in the process saw starting middle Aubrey Berger get sidelined by a sprained ankle for at least a week.

The Panthers hosted undefeated Encampment first in a Friday afternoon matchup Saratoga coach Shayley Love knew would be a challenge. "We started out amazing against Encampment, so kudos to the girls for that first set, coming out and competing," Love said. Saratoga lost that set 25-19, but in doing so they mounted a serious challenge to the top-ranked team in their 1A Southwest conference.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, that level of play nosedived in the second and third sets, which Saratoga gave up 25-8 and 25-10.

"The first match we were determined to take care of it, shut down their big middles–and we did that!" Love said. "We didn't follow through with that (in the second and third sets), so just finding that consistency from here out's going to be important," she continued.

"As far as Saturday (at home against Cokeville) goes–I don't know, really," Love said. "It's not like we played terribly. Looking at our stats we played decent but we just never gained any momentum," the coach observed.

Saratoga dropped three of four closely contested sets to the Cokeville Panthers, losing 25-23 in set one and 25-18 in set two before rebounding for a 25-22 win in the third set to force a fourth. In the fourth set, the hometown Panthers fell 25-16 to the visiting Panther team.

"I felt like our team was just a little off Saturday. We weren't meshing with each other and just didn't gather ourselves again (after losing sets)" Love said.

It was in the second set that freshman middle Aubrey Berger suffered her ankle injury while going up for a block against Cokeville's tall front line players. After getting some hand on the ball, Berger landed on top of one of the Cokeville players and felt her foot roll underneath her.

Grimacing in obvious pain, the young athlete managed to keep playing for the duration of the rotation before making her serves and limping off court. "By the time she got to the bench, (her ankle) was pretty big and purple," Love said. Berger will sit out matches this weekend, and is questionable for Saratoga's Oct. 14 match-up against Hanna Elk Mountain Medicine Bow.

"Our focus this week is finding the six that can get it done for the next weekend," Love said. The coach said during practices she would be experimenting with playing freshmen Makiya Johnson and Jenna Dew in Berger's slot. Players in other positions may also get shuffled, Love said:

Max Miller

A Saratoga tip sails over the Encampment defense headed towards cross court corner.

"It might not just be the middle position. I feel like right now we need to kind of find a mesh in a lot of other positions."

Saratoga will be participating in a tournament in Kaycee over the weekend, and Love said observing how other teams play could have important implications for regionals, or even state competitions later in the year. Most of the Panthers 1A competition will also be playing in Kaycee that weekend, making it ample scouting ground.

Love said the team's focus in the week ahead will be preparing for their first round match against Farson/Eden in that tournament. "They're moving on up in our conference. They beat Baggs (last week)" Love said.

If Saratoga can rediscover the team chemistry that had them hanging tough with Encampment early Friday afternoon, they'll be strong contenders in Kaycee as well.

 

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