RIVALRY LESSON: Red Devils fall in four to Panthers

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Sports

August 31, 2016 - 12:00 AM

Allen Community College volleyball coach Whitney Shaw knew that Tuesday’s contest against archrival Neosho County Community College would be a tough challenge for her team that had only one regular season game to prepare for the Panthers.
“With our freshmen, we tried to explain how competitive the conference is, but now I think they understand,” Shaw said. “We have to pick our game up to be able to play well and compete.”
The game was the seventh of the season for Neosho County and it appeared to be in mid-season form from the start against Allen.
The Panthers (4-3) jumped all over the smaller Red Devils in the opening set and cruised to a 23-13 win.
“They have big middles,” Shaw said. “Their middles definitely hurt us blocking and attacking.”
Things didn’t improve very much for the Red Devils in the second set. The Panthers were able to quickly take care of Allen 25-16.
“I think that the pressure of it being Neosho and a conference game and that we knew the competition was going to be better, just got the best of us,” Shaw said. “We were prepared mentally, but physically, once we got out there you could just see people break down and get the jitters.”
In the third set, Shaw finally got a glimpse of the character she knew her team had.
With a raucous crowd to encourage Allen, the Red Devils and Panthers turned in an instant classic of a set.
“I made quite a few changes in the third set,” Shaw said. “It was good to see the people that I brought in step up and do their jobs.”
The players Shaw brought in were freshmen McKenzie Kueker and Callie Watson to help as hitters and blockers.
The Red Devils delighted the crowd early by taking an early 5-3 lead. The Panthers quickly responded with a 4-2 run to even the set at seven.
The teams exchanged points until it was 12-12 and then Neosho made its run. The Panthers rattled off five-straight points and took a 17-12 lead.
Trailing 17-12 and down two sets at home, it would have been very easy for Allen to close up shop and lay down for the Panthers, but the Red Devils have too much pride to do that.
Allen answered the Neosho run with a 5-0 run of its own to even the set back up.
“We battled back, so that was really good,” Shaw said.
The game remained even until with it was knotted at 21 apiece, Neosho used a 3-1 run to push Allen to the brink with the score 24-22.
One point separated Allen from heading to the locker room with a straight-sets loss to their rivals, but again the Red Devils were able to show their heart.
The Red Devils got the serve back with a side-out.
Sophomore Sarah Baker toed the service line knowing that she was going have to give her team at least two points in order to keep the match alive.
Baker did one better than that by rattling off three straight points. The final one came on an emphatic kill from Red Devil star outside hitter Andi Dowell to win the set 26-24.
Dowell finished the match with a team-high 16 kills.
Unfortunately that was just one set.
“I just wish we could have carried it over to the fourth set,” Shaw said. “We got down a little again and we couldn’t pick ourselves back up.”
Neosho County responded with a 25-15 win in the fourth set to escape Iola with a 3-1 victory.
The Red Devils have plenty to build on as they continue their season in Highland this weekend at a two-day tournament, where they hope to improve their 1-1 record.
The tournament opens with Allen facing Wentworth Military Academy at 3 p.m. on Friday. Neosho County beat Wentworth soundly in straight sets earlier this season.
Allen will also face Labette Community College, Iowa Central Community College and Ellsworth Community College.

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