The Saratoga Sun -

Lady Panthers end season with loss to Lady Rattlers

Coach sees bright future for team


The Saratoga Lady Panthers volleyball team sadly ended its season over the weekend with a close-but nonetheless disheartening-loss against conference rivals, the hard-hitting Rattlers of Little Snake River School in Baggs.

The Panthers went into Friday's bout against the Rattlers knowing the team's only hope of getting into regional playoffs by way of a pigtail match was on the line. Far from the kind of blowout seen in the past when the Rattlers have taken on rivals, the Lady Panthers fought hard to keep hopes alive, ending the match with respectable scoring gaps.

Ultimately, the team lost to the Rattlers in three games, 13-25, 21-25 and 16-25.

Overall it wasn't like we played horribly," Shayley Love, head coach of the Saratoga lady Panthers said. "Obviously there was the one set when we were right there 25-21 and I thought that would give us a bit more momentum when we were that close to them, but we had a couple position changes this week and a couple things going on.

"And so with that it can sometimes be hard just finding out who plays better by who and I don't think we had enough practice with those positions."

The Lady Panthers stuck a bit closer to the Rattlers, and Love attributed that to a strong defense.

During the game, Saratoga hit 55 digs and 6 kills against the Rattlers, which is impressive for a team known for hitting hard and driving a game tempo somewhere between Vivace and Presto.

Sophomore Jenna Dew led her team in kills, Mychaela Jackman, a junior who played as the team's libero, led the Panthers in digs, hitting the floor 13 times. Sophomore Taylor Bennett made 11, and junior Tiffany Bauer and sophomore Aubrey Berger had 10 apiece.

Though the Panthers' defense did a good job of shutting down the Rattlers' scoring opportunities, the team's offense was not able to capitalize sufficiently and turn the scoring against the ladies from Baggs.

In the end though, Love said it was the team's fighting spirit that kept them going.

"Overall, the girls kept fighting and so I was proud of them for continuing to play and not giving up," Love said. "We just kept fighting and competing and trying to hang in there. Part of that motivation too was we needed that win to get the pigtail; a little bit if it was just the girls thinking in the back of their minds 'We gotta work hard for that.'"

As hard as the team worked, it came up short against the defending state champion Rattlers. Much of the team's struggles this season came from the fact it is a young team which is rebuilding, and it is competing in what is probably the toughest conference in the state, with the Rattlers joined by juggernaut Cokeville and the Encampment Tigers who, pound-for-pound, are one of the scrappiest teams around.

"Right now, more than anything, it's that frustration that we are in such a tough conference," Love said. "We played Hanna on Saturday and beat them, and they go into their regional tournament as a third-place, almost second-seed. It tells you the difference in the conference strength."

Love said she didn't want to take away from Hanna and the Lady Miners' achievement in North County, but noted the relative youth of her team. This year, the team only had two seniors, and there was a strong age bias toward underclassmen.

If, as is said, every gray cloud has a silver lining, the silver lining for Saratoga may be that they will only lose two seniors to graduation this year. A year's maturity, Love said, plus a season's worth of experience could go a long way to helping today's young players become stronger players next year.

"The future looks really good for them," Love said.


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