Panthers defeat Strasburg, but . . .

On the heels of an Oct. 2 win over Central (3-1), Rappahannock’s Lady Panthers traveled to Strasburg last Thursday (Oct. 4) to challenge their perennial Bull Run District volleyball nemesis, the Rams. In a volley-duel, the Panther varsity team celebrated a momentum-building 3-1 victory to bring their record to 3-5 in district play.

“It pretty much felt amazing to win,” said junior Kaitlyn Jenkins, “and we couldn’t stop screaming afterwards. It was a big win for us, and now we look a lot better in the district.”

Jenkins touted the skills of her teammates and credited them with the shift. “Maddie [Kopjanski] was killing it on the net – several blocks and kills. Shelby Burnett had a really good night, too. Overall, we just played great, kept our energy up and talked the whole time.”

That energy was not an off-the-bus feature of the Panther team in their first game, which they lost. After that, Jenkins said, “we realized we really needed this win. Our coach pumped us up in the huddle and got our energy up. Then, we went out and played like we know how.” Jenkins and Kopjanski led the team in blocking for the evening.

Teammate and fellow junior Shelby Burnett shared her enthusiasm. “It was a lot of fun, and we crushed them on their home court. It was a lot like the Central game two days before where we lost the first game and won the next ones. We learned that it’s important not to get down if we lose the first game, and that we can overcome it.”

That attitude came in handy when the Lady Panthers kicked in the determination for the last game of the match. “We had some crazy saves,” Burnett said. “Everyone was hustling. At one point, a ball was tipped over the net, so me and Kaitlyn dove to it and popped it over.”

“I started off a little rocky,” Burnett said, “because I was intimidated that we were playing Strasburg. But, by the end of the game, I had five kills. That was exciting!” Burnett and Kopjanski took the high tallies for the Panthers with five kills each.

Disappointment came to the team on their home court Tuesday night (Oct. 9) against Madison for the annual Dig Pink game that raises awareness about breast cancer. Although Kaitlyn Jenkins led the ladies with seven kills for the evening, the Panthers lost 3-0, their district standing dropping to sixth place with a 3-6 record.

“We had an amazing week on the road!” said coach Courtney Atkins. “Communication and determination were key components in our wins this week. The girls minimized their errors and created more opportunities for attacking, which led to multiple kills in both matches. This team has gained momentum. This week showed the fight these girls have and how their hard work in practice pays off in games.”