Panthers survive cat fight in Cove
COVE — A brief second of agony evaporated within minutes for Imbler senior Malia Mills Thursday night. While going up for a kill, the outside hitter came down on her ankle, and let out groans that silenced the packed gym for the Old Oregon League contest against Cove.
“It hurt really bad at first,” Mills said. “But I knew it wouldn’t be too bad. I was hoping we’d be able to tape it up and I could get back in.”
Imbler needed Mills, one of its main offensive weapons, back on the floor to deal with the pesky Leopards. Cove gave Imbler a fight before falling in five, 22-25, 25-16, 20-25, 25-18, 15-10.
A few minutes after the injury, Mills was smiling on the bench. The only frown may have been for the trainer taping her ankle.
“It was the longest tape job I think I’ve ever had,” Mills said. “I just wanted to get back out on the floor.”
Mills went down in the third game, and came back with her team in a hole.
“We don’t really worry about the score,” Mills said. “We play point by point, and win every point. Competition makes us better, and this match made us better tonight.”
Even though the Leopards came out on the wrong end, Cove did something no other team on Imbler’s schedule had done this season — take two games from the Panthers.
Imbler entered the match 12-0, and had won 23 of the 25 games.
“We worked really hard this week getting ready for Imbler,” Cove head coach Darcy Carreiro said. “Offensively and defensively, we tried to speed things up, because Imbler runs a pretty quick attack. I told them I’d never be disappointed if they lose if they’re working their tails off. They focused and played hard tonight. Even though we lost, that’s the best match we’ve played this season.
“I told them if they don’t believe they can play with anyone after this match, I don’t know what it’s going to take.”
The deciding fifth game went back and forth, with Cove jumping out in front on a kill by Hailey Hulse.
But Imbler had answers in Mills and Emma Bowers.
Mills picked up four kills in the final set, including the match-clinching points. She finished with 16 kills and 15 digs in the match. Bowers had a team-high 17 kills, with five coming in the deciding game. The junior also had a team-high 26 digs.
Imbler took a commanding 10-5 lead in the fifth game and never looked back.
Jessica McDaniel, who subbed in for Mills during the third game, had three digs and a kill.
Jacey Teeter dished out 48 assists and added 11 digs.
Hannah Wilhelm and Ally Fullerton had 21 digs and 16 digs, respectively.
“We didn’t overlook them,” Imbler head coach Jennifer Teeter said. “I knew that Cove would give us a challenge tonight. It’s their gym and they have some very good players on the floor.”
Imbler is back on the floor at 4 p.m. today at Powder Valley. The Leopards host Pine Eagle at 4 p.m.