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PHS outlasts Buffalo in five-game thriller

Powell High School junior Aubrie Stenerson goes up to hit the ball over the net in a Sept. 12 home match against Billings Senior. Powell High School junior Aubrie Stenerson goes up to hit the ball over the net in a Sept. 12 home match against Billings Senior. Tribune photo by Breanne Thiel

Lady Panthers bounce back after loss against Billings Senior

After a tough loss to Billings Senior on Tuesday, the Lady Panthers volleyball team bounced back in Buffalo on Friday, outlasting the Lady Bison in a five-set battle.

PHS 3, Buffalo 2

“All three teams came ready to play in Buffalo Friday night,” said Powell High School head volleyball coach Randi Bonander. “The freshmen won in three sets, the JV won in two sets and the varsity won in five sets.”

The Lady Panther varsity won the first set 25-17.

“Rachel Bonander had three stuff blocks early in the first set which kept the momentum in our direction,” coach Bonander said.

The second set also went to the Lady Panthers 25-21.

“The varsity started off strong dominating the first two sets,” said coach Bonander.

Bonander attributed the wins in the first two sets to Jazlyn Haney and Hartly Thorington having “dominated and finding holes in their defense. Alli Sommerville, Natalie Birdsley and Aubrie Stenerson executed consistent passes so Jordan Walsh could keep moving the sets around to different hitters. On defense, Brooke Sweet, Natalie Ostermiller and Jordan Walsh made necessary adjustments.”

However, the next two sets went to the Lady Bison, 25-21 each.

“Buffalo came back and turned the momentum by taking advantage of some of our defensive areas,” Bonander said. “They won the next two sets by splitting our blockers on the net so it was more difficult to close blocks and took advantage of our inconsistent hitting.”

With each team having won two sets, a fifth tiebreaker set was needed to determine the victor. Powell came out strong and won it, 15-9, coach Bonander said.

Billings Senior 3, PHS 0

The Lady Panthers welcomed Montana Class AA powerhouse Billings Senior to the Panther Gym Tuesday, Sept. 12, falling to the Lady Broncs in three straight games.

“Billings Senior has a much larger population of students and area to draw from, so we knew they would be tough competition,” said coach Bonander, adding that “they also have a tradition of winning state in Class AA in Montana.” 

According to MaxPreps, the Billings Senior volleyball team is currently undefeated, posting a 16-0 record, and is ranked third in their home state. For the season, Billings Senior averages 11.4 kills per set and has a 46.8 kill percentage.

“We decided we were going to go into the game with nothing to lose, but tons to gain,” coach Bonander said. “The girls knew we would have to adjust to their level of play, but also focus on what we could control which was our serving and passing.”

The Lady Panther’s overall passing average was just under 2.00 “which hurt us,” said coach Bonander, but Powell had a serving percentage of 96.6; she said that percentage “is one of our highest averages in a match this season.” 

Aubrie Stenerson, Jordan Walsh, Natalie Birdsley and Rachel Bonander were all at 100 percent for serving. 

“Executing only two blocks out of 25 attempts also kept us from coming out on top,” coach Bonander said. “We were able to adjust to their middle hitters, one hitting consistently deep and the other hitting consistently on the 10-foot line.”

Powell lost in three sets: 25-17, 25-17 and 25-23.

“We came out of this loss focusing on the positives, and ready to work on our mistakes,” coach Bonander said, adding, “we keep improving ... with each match, which is exactly where we want to be right now.”

Next up for the Lady Panthers is a home game tonight (Tuesday) against Worland’s Lady Warriors, with the varsity game to begin at 7 p.m. Thursday, Powell will travel to Cody for the first conference match at 6 p.m. 

“Both will be tough competitions,” coach Bonander said of this week’s games.

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