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Danika McIntosh (9) and Emma Bowers (11) celebrate with Ally Fullerton after a point is scored in Game 2 of the Lady Panthers' 3-0 sweep of Ione Wednesday in the first round of the 1A state playoffs. Imbler will travel to play Adrian Saturday in the second round of the playoffs.
Lady Panthers unseat defending champions Ione, advance to Adrian
IMBLER — Ione’s bid for a second straight state championship came to an end Wednesday night in Imbler, as the Lady Panthers swept the visiting Cardinals 25-22, 27-25 and 25-9 in the first round of the 1A playoffs.
Eighth-ranked Imbler will travel to play ninth-ranked Adrian Saturday in the second round.
The Antelopes had a first-round bye as the High Desert League champions.
But first the Lady Panthers had to get by the Cardinals, and that wasn’t as easy as the 3-0 sweep may have indicated.
Ione showed up with upset on its mind and the Cardinals challenged Imbler for the majority of the night.
“It wasn’t the kind of volleyball we had hoped for as far as consistency goes,” Imbler coach Jennifer Teeter said.
“I thought Ione stepped up and played well.”
The Lady Panthers were able to go up 3-0 early in the opening set before the Cardinals rallied to tie the game at 8-8.
Imbler responded with a 10-3 run behind the serving of Ally Fullerton and Malia Mills to go up 18-11.
But the inconsistency by the Lady Panthers continued as they allowed Ione to get back in the game with a 9-2 run of its own to tie the game at 20-20.
The teams exchanged a couple points each before Imbler closed the match on an Emma Bowers kill to give Imbler a one-set advantage.
Ione pushed Imbler to the brink in Game 2, but the Lady Panthers showed a resiliency that they will have to have during this playoff run.
The Cardinals opened with a 5-1 burst to start the set. They held the lead throughout the game, going up by as many as six points at 15-9, until the Lady Panthers went on a 6-0 run to tie it with Rikki Griffin at the service line.
Ione reeled off another string of points to go up 20-16, but again Imbler rallied back to tie it at 21-21 and take its first lead at 22-21.
The set saw four ties after that until the Lady Panthers scored two straight points at the end, closing the game on another Bowers kill.
“We were working on trying to be consistent,” Teeter said.
“We need to work for one point at a time. We tried to slow things down to be aggressive and have a good offensive attack.”
Things really started to click for Imbler in Game 3 as the Lady Panthers flashed their true potential.
After trailing 3-0 at the outset, Imbler fought back to tie it at 3-3.
The set saw three more ties before the Lady Panthers took their first lead at 8-7 — a lead they never relinquished.
With Mills at the service stripe, Imbler scored 13 straight points to go up 21-7 and before closing out the set and the match, ending the Cardinals playoff run just as it got started.
“By Game 3 we found our rhythm,” Teeter said.
“To win in three games was important. That was one of our goals was to win in three.”
Mills finished 27 for 27 serving to go along with 16 digs. Fullerton was 13 for 13 at the service line, while Jacey Teeter had 14 digs.
Griffin scored eight points serving with one ace, and Danika McIntosh had three blocks.
Bowers finished with 12 kills and was 25 for 28 hitting, including a kill to end each set.
“Emma really stepped up and played a great match,” her coach said. “And Malia’s serving was a critical aspect as well. I thought Jacey did a nice job of controlling the tempo of our offense.
“Our net play was really improved tonight, too.”
Now awaiting the Lady Panthers is Adrian, a team they defeated 3-0 back on Aug. 31.
“We have to work hard the next two days. We’ve had the opportunity to play in Adrian’s gym before, so that won’t be new to us,” Teeter said.
The game is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. MT.
Also, Fullerton’s name was omitted in Wednesday’s all-OOL selection story. The junior earned second-team honors this season.