KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Park Hill South never lacked for confidence, not after losing two key pieces from last year’s rebuilding effort and two losses to open the season. The youthful Panthers have won nine straight after dispatching rival Park Hill in straight sets on Thursday, Sept. 10. With just two seniors on the roster (one injured, one a reserve), Park Hill South quickly rebuilt its attack behind juniors Andi Elley and Bri Bartosh and sophomore Annika Welty with junior setter Allison Sadler manning the setter spot full time after Alex Rothers broke an arm early in the season.
Park Hill South sits just two seasons removed from a Class 4 state championship game appearance and the team reached the District 15 final a year ago with much of the current roster gaining valuable experience.
“We’re figuring it out, figuring out how to play as a team,” said Elley, a returning starter from last year who recorded a match-high nine kills in the win against Park Hill. “Our goal is definitely to make it to state.”
Park Hill South recorded three aces in each set, and one from Sadler and two for Sydney Stewart in the opener helped build an 18-12 lead. Three of Gabby Sweeney’s team-high seven kills Park Hill stay close early, but the Panthers pulled away with two kills from Elley maxing out the lead at 23-13.
In the second set, Sadler and Elley each recorded critical blocks to pull Park Hill South away.
Five straight points prompted a Park Hill timeout, down 10-4, and Stewart added an ace on the other side of the break as the lead reached 12-5. Sadler’s block made it 14-8 and provided a shot of energy, and Elley’s all but put the match out of reach at 21-15.
Welty, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, added seven kills and Bartosh six, while Sadler recorded 18 kills and tied Elley for the team lead at 11 digs.
“We have a lot of speed on our team. We’re athletic,” Elley said. “Especially since our other setter got injured, (Sadler) has done a really good job of stepping up. She’s dealing with it well.”
Park Hill South’s recent run included a 6-0 trip to Orlando, Fla. in the KSE Classic. The Panthers swept all six matches in the second of five tiers of bracket play, an important bonding experience for the players.
Park Hill went 2-2-2 in the Winnetonka Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 12 in Kansas City, Mo., and then lost in straight sets to Lee’s Summit North on Monday, Sept. 14 to drop to 5-7-2 on the season.
Park Hill South 2, Oak Park 0
The Panthers increased their streak to 10 straight matches — and 10 straight sweeps — on Monday, Sept. 14 in Riverside, Mo. Elley recorded team-highs of 11 kills and 10 digs, while Bartosh added five aces.
Park Hill South 2, Blue Springs South 0
The Panthers kept a winning streak alive in a nonconference matchup Tuesday, Sept. 8 in Blue Springs, Mo.
Bartosh (11 kills), Elley (nine) and Welty (eight) again led a balanced attack with Sadler providing all 25 of Park Hill South’s assists in the sweep. Elley also added a team-high 17 digs, while tying with Sadler for team-high with three aces.
Bartosh shined in the attack with 56.2 hit percentage on attack attempts (11-for-16).
Lee’s Summit West Tournament
Platte County went 1-3, losing in the first round of the consolation bracket Saturday, Sept. 12 in Lee’s Summit, Mo.
In pool play, Platte County went 1-2 with losses to Olathe Northwest (Kan.) and Blue Springs in straight sets before rallying to beat Schlagle (Kan.) 25-9, 25-10 for the lone win on the day. Farmington beat the Pirates 25-16, 25-16 in the elimination game.
Rylie Collins highlighted the day with seven aces and 24 service points, while Kenedy Knox (team-high 18 kills, 16 assists) and Madysen Fine (team-high 22 assists, 12 kills) continued to lead the Platte County attack. Hannah Kunels added 10 kills, while Collins’ 25 digs were a team-high.
Platte County 2, St. Joseph Central 0
Knox’s kill broke a 23-23 tie in the first set and sent the Pirates on the way to a sweep Thursday, Sept. 10 in St. Joseph, Mo. They won 25-23, 25-17, dominating play in the second set.
Knox finished with 12 kills total, while Fine added five and supplied a team-high 12 assists. Collins collected 13 digs, just in front of Kailyn Saxer-Taulbee’s nine.
Kunels tallied three blocks.
St. Teresa’s Academy 2, Platte County 0
The Pirates continued their up-and-down season the night before in a home loss to the Stars, who claimed the sweep 25-16, 25-13. Knox tallied eight kills, while Fine ended up with seven assists.