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Grain Valley volleyball continues dominance of Panthers

By Cody Thorn
Special to The Examiner

Though it is more of a proximity rivalry now than a conference battle, Grain Valley and Oak Grove met up in a volleyball match on Monday night.

The game, much like the previous matchups in recent years, went in favor of Grain Valley.

The Eagles rolled to a 3-0 victory and now have won 16 in a row against the Panthers, dating back to 2011. This is the first sweep in the new format adopted in Missouri in the best of five instead of three.

“I think it is always fun to play Oak Grove,” said Grain Valley coach Tori Squiers, a former Grain Valley player. “Even though they aren’t in our conference, they are our neighbors and the girls know each other. It is always a fun match.”

Grain Valley won 25-7, 25-16 and 25-12 and outside of the second match, were not really challenged by the undermanned Panthers. 

The Eagles had a hot start, scoring 10 of the first 13 points – which included back-to-back kills by junior Kellie Overturf.

Oak Grove called a timeout and got the first point out of the break on kill by Mackenzie Mann. After that, the Eagles (7-6-4) continued to roll behind a 9-2 run with Madi Morris getting a bump pass to fall to the floor, while Gabbi Keim had a block that fell safely on the Oak Grove side.

“We just came out with a warmup so strong,” Squiers said. “We had a long tournament on Saturday (at Lee’s Summit North) and we took Sunday off. We play Tuesday and Thursday and I think we are in game-mode now. The girls are really starting to adjust to that and I think we just came out and were ready to do awesome. I think that is how they looked in the first set.”

Oak Grove, playing without four starters due a quarantine that started last week, fell behind 5-1 in the second set and then trailed 8-3 after a kill by Overturf.

Then, a kill by Addy Baumgartner started a rally for the Panthers (3-3) – who haven’t played since Sept. 17. A series of errors by Grain Valley allowed the Panthers to surge ahead and take a 9-8 lead.

“We have a totally new lineup and we are working out some things,” Oak Grove coach Samantha Shawver said. “We had nerves because a lot of them are young. We had juniors step up into the starting lineup and once they got out of their heads, they are good athletes and are good players once we got over the hump. They did a job of communication and I’m proud of their efforts, all things considered.”

The second set was then tied at 11, 12 and 13, before a return error by Oak Grove gave the Eagles the lead for good at 14-13. The match was as close as 17-16, but Grain Valley scored the last eight points to take a 2-0 lead.

“We started making our own mistakes and that is what hurt us,” Squiers said. “We were making errors and getting in our own head. We got it back together and under control.”

For the second straight match, Grain Valley took a 5-1 lead and expanded the lead to 11-4 before Oak Grove called a timeout. With Phonecia Lamell serving, the Panthers pulled within 12-7 but Grain Valley followed by scoring seven of the next nine points and led to a second timeout by Oak Grove.

Olivia Williams – who shared the team lead in kills with Overturf with seven each – had two during the final 6-0 run by Grain Valley to end the contest.

Williams had four blocks, while libero Clara Gower had seven aces for the Eagles. 

Oak Grove was limited to eight kills, led by two each from Makenna Gary, Kealyn Wilkinson and Grace Sears. Mann had two of three blocks by Oak Grove, while Wilkinson led the Panthers with eight digs. 

Grain Valley hosts Belton on Tuesday and then William Chrisman on Thursday, both Suburban Middle Six Conference games. Oak Grove, meanwhile, has three games in three days that started with this showdown. The Panthers travel to Odessa on Tuesday and Van Horn on Wednesday.

“We are still earning the roles and learning to adjust,” Shawver said. “We will have a different lineup tomorrow and see how it goes.”