Pinckneyville girls volleyball ran its record to 7-1 with a full week of matches, including two tough conference wins over Sparta on Tuesday and rival Du Quoin on Thursday.
The Panthers also disposed of nonconference foes West Frankfort last Monday 25-10, 25-13 and Johnston City last Wednesday 25-15, 25-11.
On Monday against the Redbirds, Senior Bella Pasquino had a serving night for the record books, scoring half of the Panther points, including 14 aces on bullet-like serves. Senior Chloe Yates took serving honors against Johnston City as she flipped an 8-4 deficit in the second set, reeling off 18 points for a 22-8 advantage before the Panthers closed out the match.
SIRR conference opponents Sparta and Du Quoin battled the Panthers in their two-set matches. On their home court, the Bulldogs kept both sets close as the Cats and Dogs fought back and forth throughout their match. The Panthers prevailed with a 25-18, 25-20 victory, with the final margins the largest of each set.
For the Panthers' fourth match of the last week, cross-county and conference rival Du Quoin brought their A-game to Thomas Gym for their match. The Panthers jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first set and held that lead at 18-11 before the Indians mounted a major comeback. Du Quoin crept back with a 12-5 rally, including a 5-0 run, that tied the set at 23, prompting a Panther timeout as the Indians looked to grab a lead to steal the set.
Facing their first loss of a set in the season, the Panthers broke the Indians' serve and closed out the emotional match at 25-23. In the second set, the Panthers then carried the high-energy excitement of the first set to a 25-13 win.
The Panthers' balanced attack made the difference in both sets as powerful front-line players Pasquino, Yates, senior Payton Morgan, junior Cassidy Lee, and sophomore Addie Waggoner took the assists of sophomore Jill Shaneyfelt to finish strong. Panther Head Coach Mike Layne also credited the back row defense and serving of senior Grace Numi and sophomore Emily Ruppert, along with junior Lily Tanner coming off the bench to make a solid contribution to the victory.
The Du Quoin Indians, meanwhile, bounced back against the Carbondale Terriers on Saturday, winning 2-1 in the nonconference matchup.
The Panthers, ranked #3 in the southern Illinois' coaches poll, traveled to #2-ranked Fairfield on Saturday. Adding to the drama was the memory of last year's Fairfield Tournament, where the Panthers prevailed and defeated the host Lady Mules for the championship.
Not to be denied this year, Fairfield would defend their home court as they turned back every Panther rally for a 25-21 first set win. The Panthers battled back in set two to a 23-23 tie before the Lady Mules put away the match at 25-23.
The Panthers followed their first loss with a 25-16, 25-21 win against Flora to bounce back and close out the week at 7-1.