Lady Panthers run afoul of Rattlers, Tigers to end season


FW Broschart

Freshman Makiya Johnson dives in vain for a dig in the Panthers' loss to Encampment.

Like Heartbreak Hill in the Boston Marathon, the Saratoga Panthers volleyball season ended with away games against top-ranked Baggs and Encampment. Losses in both of those challenging matches dashed the Panthers playoff hopes, and spelled the end of the season for Saratoga.

"I don't know what to say, we had two of the toughest teams to play our last weekend," coach Shayley Love said.

Against Baggs on Friday, Love said, "We didn't play horribly by any means. We put up a fight the first couple of matches." Saratoga was defeated 25-14 in set one, and lost 25-17 in set two before misfortune struck in the third contest. Early in that game, Love said senior Meredith Lincoln suffered a foot injury, sidelining her for the rest of the set-contributing to the Panthers' lopsided 25-9 loss.

Saturday against Encampment, Love said, "(Lincoln) wasn't 100 percent, but she was determined to play that last game as a senior."

Encampment was 23-1 going into their game against the Panthers, and with one of their top-performers hobbled, Saratoga couldn't get the win they needed to advance. The Panthers dropped their last match of the year in straight sets: 25-12, 25-16, and 25-14.

"We were passing well, but we weren't putting the ball away when it came time to hit it over the net," Love said of the Encampment match.

Throughout the season, Lincoln was one of the Panthers' most reliable finishers, and her injury left a gap in the offense that was difficult to fill.

Injuries nipped at the Panthers' heels during the year, notably an ankle injury that took starter Aubrey Berger out for the season and a concussion that sidelined Bryce Schwartzkopf for several games.

Love also said a tough, imbalanced conference contributed to the Panthers' early exit. "We've beat the #1 and the #2 (ranked teams) from the other side already," Love said, of matches against Dubois and Ten Sleep. The tournament format has let those teams in the door, while the Panthers were shut out by their powerful neighboring opponents, she said.

Love also said she was frustrated that the Cokeville team "refused" to play a second match against Saratoga, so the Cokeville match was weighted as two matches in the standing. "The state's going to have to step in and reevaluate a lot of stuff to make it right for everybody," Love concluded.

Regardless of formatting complaints, Love said, "I'm proud of the way the girls competed the whole season." She said Saratoga had a promising young roster of talent, and that with all the experience freshmen and sophomore players got this year, the Panthers should be a force to be reckoned with in 2017.


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