The Imbler Panthers volleyball team celebrates after defeating C.S. Lewis Academy in straight sets Saturday in a second round play-in game.
IMBLER — A few things stood between the Imbler volleyball team and a trip to Ridgeview High School in Redmond to compete for the Class 1A state championships Saturday.
The tallest obstacle was C.S. Lewis Academy’s 6-foot-2 hitter Hannah Schmeltzer.
“We heard from other teams about (Schmeltzer),” Imbler senior Malia Mills said. “We had to adjust going up against a blocker like that. She did a great job moving all around to try and disrupt what we were doing.”
It took a little bit of time, but the Panthers navigated around the 6-2 blocker to pick up a 25-20, 25-15, 25-18 sweep in the second round of the state play-in games at Imbler High School.
The Watchmen caught the Panthers a little off guard in the opening set, pulling out to a 9-3 lead.
Imbler head coach Jennifer Teeter said she had to call a timeout to allow her team to regroup.
“There were a lot of nerves out there for us early on,” Teeter said. “I just told the girls it was there time, to settle down and have fun.”
The Panthers inched closer, but couldn’t find a way to grab the lead until junior Emma Bowers toed the service line like a pitcher on the mound. Trailing 15-12, Bowers served eight-straight points, including three service aces, to give her team a 20-15 lead.
“Emma gets down on herself when she misses a serve,” Teeter said. “That’s just her competitive nature. But, she’s serving so hard. It comes really flat over the net and it’s tough for the other team to pass those serves very well.”
The second set played out the same way. It was close until the mid-way point when Bowers took the ball to the service line again. This time she collected three-straight aces, giving her team a 17-13 lead. Imbler held that cushion the rest of the set.
“We made the adjustments that we needed to,” Mills said. “There was no way we were going to let something keep us from making the final eight.
The Panther will open the eight-team bracket Friday, and try to advance to the state title game for the second straight season. Imbler will face St. Paul at 3:15 p.m.
The Buckaroos advanced to Redmond by sweeping Hosanna Christian 25-15, 25-13, 25-15 Saturday. St. Paul, out of the Casco League, was the sixth seed in the playoffs. The Buckaroos were swept by C.S. Lewis Academy 25-18, 25-20, 25-23 Oct. 10.