By Nick Miller
The Lady Panthers Volleyball team came into the Lincoln Tournament ready to make a statement and they did just that, winning the championship title for the fourth year in a row.
Head Coach Melissa Massey said she was really proud of the team and their level of play.
“Coming out of the Edwardsville tournament we obviously were facing some tough competition and we didn’t do great that Saturday at that tournament, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from the girls but they went out there and handled their business,” Massey said. “It was impressive and you could see them set the tone for going forward. We don’t have another tournament for about three weeks so it gives us some groove heading into the Metro-East tournament in Belleville which will also be stacked.”
The Panthers began the tournament taking on the East Peoria Raiders, taking them in two sets, 25-14 and 25-11. They ended play on Friday evening against the Danville Vikings, also defeating them in two sets, 25-18 and 25-11.
Saturday saw a different level of competition and at one point the team was down to a strong Quincy Notre Dame team.
“We played Quincy Notre Dame who are actually really good. We were down the first set 17-11 and we came back to win 26-24 and then won the second set. I was really, not shocked really, but excited to see the girls come from behind and handle the game like that,“ Massey said.
The Panthers would defeat the Quincy Notre Dame Raiders 25-10 in the second set before moving on to play the St. Teresa Bulldogs in the playoff match. O’Fallon had their hands full with St. Teresa in the first set, winning 28-26, but defeating the Decatur area school 25-14 in the second set.
Finally, in the tournament championship, the Panthers defeated the Deer Creek-Mackinaw Chiefs in two sets, 25-17 and 25-19, to take the trophy home for the fourth year in a row.
“We’ve been going to this event for the last five years. I like to go up there because the teams we face are ones that we tend to see past regionals. Teams like Springfield, Normal West, teams like that we wouldn’t normally see down here,” Massey said.
In addition to winning the top spot, the Panthers also saw three of their own honored for their play during the tournament.
“We had three players on the All-Tournament team, out of ten, which is impressive. Kenzie Simmers, our outside, had the most votes. She’s averaging six to seven kills per game and is killing it for us. Then Lauren LePere, our other outside, is great at the net and very strong defensively for us. I think she gets overlooked so much and she does so well for us in back court. And Abby Braswell our setter got all-tournament as well,” Massey said.
The Lady Panthers continued their season taking on the Belleville East Lancers at Belleville East on Tuesday evening after this issue went to print.