It wasn’t a fairy tale senior night result for the Truman volleyball team, but the Patriots showed what type of team they can be in the second set of a 25-10, 25-23 home loss to Park Hill South Tuesday.
After the visiting Panthers played flawlessly in the opening set, Truman came alive in the second to nearly force a third frame against a South team that picked up its 22nd win of the season and is the top seed in its district.
“We came out a little tight,” Patriots coach David Gardner said. “Being senior night, I think we were a little emotional about it being our last home match, and being a senior-laden team I think it took a bit of a toll during the first set. When we are on and are playing up emotionally and in the game, we can play with anybody. I think that showed late. It’s just getting to that point.”
Truman’s seniors said the match as a whole didn’t reflect their team.
“We can play a lot better than that,” said Tapanga Johnson, who led the Patriots with nine kills. “When we played at (South) earlier, we played better than that. It was a disappointing match. But we have one more regular season match and districts to look forward to.”
Added Kasia Penyock, who knocked down five shots: “Many times in the season we’ve kind of started in a funk and then worked our way up, but like tonight it was just too late. We’re a very capable team, sometimes it just takes a while to bring it out of us.”
South (22-6-2) led from start to finish in the first set, using solid hitting and blocking from front-row players Rachel Francis, Michelle Dvorak and Annika Welty – who all stand at least 5-feet-11 – to spur an 11-0 run that turned an 11-7 lead into a 22-7 advantage.
“We had some good double-blocks, but a lot of times they just hit over the top of us,” Gardner said. “At that point you just hope you can dig it up and make a good play. You can’t coach tall.”
Penyock noted the Panthers’ height forced hitting adjustments by Truman on offense.
“It’s intimidating no matter how high you can jump,” she said. “It encourages you to try different things, like go cross-court or down the line, and not just kill it. It’s more focusing and watching the block.”
Truman (13-11-4) rallied from a 12-7 deficit in the second set and eventually took a 23-22 lead behind the hitting of Johnson, Penyock, Natalya Nalivaiko (four kills) and Marlee Guenther (four kills), but South reeled off three straight points to win the match.
Gardner said the Patriots need to play like they did the second set every point as they head into the postseason.
“If we do that, we can make some noise and make a good showing and that’s what we’d like to do,” he said.
Though their last home match didn’t go as they wanted it to for the eight Truman seniors, the experience of playing together in the Truman High School gym is something they’ll always treasure.
“It’s been fun playing with these seniors,” Johnson said. “Some of these girls I’ve been playing with since middle school. It’s something that means a lot to me and I really enjoy.”