The lady Panthers of Centralia were on the prowl all season for another great season and chance to get back to the state tournament and make some noise again. Centralia definitely made noise at the state tourney as they took all five matches they played to three sets. Panthers capped off a 40 win season with a third place finish at the Class 1A-Division I state volleyball tournament.
Things got started for the lady Panthers on Friday afternoon as they hit the court for pool play as the three seed in the tournament. Centralia would need three sets in all three pool play matches but they came out victorious in all of them. The first victim to fall to Centralia was the Bulldogs of Waverly. Waverly was able to rattle Centralia early as the Bulldogs took set number 25-21. That was really all the good that happened for Waverly as in set number two Centralia absolutely crushed the Bulldogs 25-7, wasting no motion on the court behind a great team performance. Panthers then dispatched the Bulldogs in the third set 25-18.
After a break the Panthers hit the court again this time taking on the seven seed, Bucklin. Centralia's momentum from the final two sets early appeared to continue for the Panthers as it was back and forth initially but the Panthers ultimately grabbed a hold of set one and one it 25-18. This match is actually the only time in the state tournament the Panthers would win the first set. Bucklin, who finished pool play winless, but played everyone tough, including Centralia forced a third set with a 27-25 set two win. The Panthers again would have an answer closing out the third set on a run to take it 25-17.
Going for the pool play win and a 3-0 pool play the Panthers hit the court late on Friday to cap of the volleyball days action in Hays against Hoxie who at that time was 2-0 in pool play like Centralia. Just like the first match for Centralia the Panthers got behind the eight ball early and fell in set one 25-20. But if thought that was a problem for the Panthers you would be mistaken because yet again the Panthers turned up their play and would rally to win the final two sets 25-12, 25-17 and go 3-0 in pool play.
With a 3-0 pool play performance the Panther advanced to the semifinals of the Class 1A-DI state tourney. Centralia's opponent in the semifinals the defending Class 1A-DI state champs, St. John's Hudson who beat the Panthers in the championship last season. The Tigers of St. John's Hudson capitalized early in the first set to string a big run together that allowed them to control the set and capture it 25-15. Though, Centralia who found themselves down a set already which in the state tourney was not rattled as they cruised to a fast start in set two and held on 25-20 to force a third set. This one unfortunately for the Panthers was almost a mirror image of set one as St. John's Hudson took it 25-11.
After suffering the loss the Panther setup to play Hoxie for the second time in the state tourney with third place up for grabs. Just like the first time these teams meet up on the court back in pool play it would be Hoxie capturing set one, this time 25-23. Being down a set was familiar territory for the Panthers as the state tourney and they would need to win set two to force a third set. The lady Panthers would get the job done in the second set 25-12, to how appropriate go to a third and final set. With the momentum from the second set the Panthers propelled themselves to set number three, 25-11 and ended their season with a win and a third place finish in the Class 1A-DI state volleyball tournament.
It was a hard fought state tourney for the Panthers but they closed the season out with a win and great state performance. The Panthers registered a 40 win season, finishing the year, 40-5. Centralia will revamp the roster next year with seven seniors loss to graduation, but look to celebrate and enjoy this great season.
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