Serves, passing errors hurt Lady Panthers against two district rivals

Danika Kritter executing a kill against Strasburg on Monday night. Photo by Clarissa Rutherford.

“I believe . . . You believe” resonated in the RCHS gym this week when Power in Pink, Rappahannock County High School’s Lady Panthers, prowled onto their home court for two consecutive “give it all ya got” volleyball matches against their most intense district rivals — Strasburg and Madison.

Monday night’s “Dig Pink” atmosphere was loud, bright and electrified. The Rapp pep crowd, donning cotton candy colors for breast cancer awareness, posted a pink-lettered poster “Fight Like a Girl!” and rattled the house with spirited chants to motivate their team.

The pink Panthers duked it out with the Rams, but came up short with a 4-1 loss. “We defeated ourselves,” coach Jackie Tederick reported. “First, we had 11 missed serves. In our winning set, we only missed one serve.”

Certainly, passing errors plagued the Panthers as they struggled to get decent passes to their setters. In great play moments, Rapp definitely dominated at the net. Addie Swindler crushed 11 kills, and Danika Kritter smacked 10 kills. “There was so much hustle and aggressiveness,” Tederick said. “The girls had some great scrappiness. There were points I didn’t think we’d get back over the net, but those missed serves . . . 11 points hurt when we only lost the match by 12 overall.”

Even with the diminished service stats, several Panthers had laudable nights from the serving line: Swindler scored 10 points with four aces; Kritter earned nine; Hanna Kopjanski tallied nine and only missed one serve for the match.

Tuesday night brought a tug-of-war with the Madison Mountaineers as the Panthers pulled hard in hopes of a victory that did not materialize. In a five-game tension fest, Rapp fell 2-3 on its home court.

Coach Tederick was right on when she said: “We started out rusty. The night before against Strasburg was physically and mentally exhausting. We came in flat.” Flat was accurate, as the first set saw a 15-25 Mountaineer win brought on by Panther passing errors and lack of coverage on defense.

After Rapp got repetitive errors out of the way, set two introduced new life. A vigorous Panther squad dominated with tremendous, shout-inducing rallies to end 25-17. With renewed momentum, the ladies came in strong for set three but lost a back-and-forth brawl 21-25.

The tide definitely seemed to turn in the fourth set when the girls took over. Back row smasher kills, blocking that stuffed the opponent, and several moments when Panthers became the beast being fed by Mountaineers’ short passes pushed too close to the net. The net game was decisive in the 25-11 win.

Smack! The sound came from the spiking hand of Swindler as she took point 1 with a kill to set the tone for the opening of set five. Panther drive grew until Rapp led 8-3. Again, passing errors and a few out-of-bounds spikes confounded Rapp’s momentum. Then the Mountaineers came to life, put up a fight and stole the victory 11-15 to end the match and put a loss on the Panther record.

“Joslyn Smith was big on the net,” Tederick bragged. “Passes got better tonight. We know when we get the pass up beyond the 10-foot line . . . we are unstoppable!”

Lady Panthers have more chances to prove they are a threat when they meet Strasburg and Madison again later in the season. Until then, the girls host Manassas Park at home tonight. Games begin at 6 p.m.

JV beats them both

Sporting their pink and playing talented teams in two back-to-back matches brought out the best in the Panther Junior Varsity as the squad beat Strasburg and Madison.

Monday night’s 2-0 domination came through Rapp’s great net play and phenomenal serving. “At one point in the match, we were 16-12,” coach Jimmy Swindler said. “Then Greta Hayden-Pless stepped up to serve. She took us through seven straight points and sealed our lead.”

Solid play described the JV team on Monday night and again on Tuesday against Madison Mountaineers. Their 2-1 victory generated cheers and high fives from the girls in blue and gold. Hustle and a team determination to push through any mistakes set Rapp up for their second win.

“We went down early, 6-15, but Paige Paul’s serving brought us back. We lost the first set because we were tense, made too many passing errors and had trouble returning some serves. But we got our focus back in the second and never looked back,” Swindler said.

Lyndie Paul described the team’s focus: “Everybody kept talking to each other. No one was allowed to get down after a mistake. We got timid, but we didn’t stay that way.”

Peyton Bailey credited her coach: “Mr. Swindler called a time out and reminded us to be aggressive.”

Swindler remarked that he was proud of his girls’ win against a “well-coached Madison team.”