It starts with the back row. Central Springs senior libero Morgan Kelley held her arms flat out in front, shoulders forward, absorbing every ball with a light touch to senior Kaylee Parks on the front row. It’s the perfect setup.
“It’s settled down our defense,” head coach Ron Pedersen said. “She’s communicating back there talking to them, keeping them confident.”
Parks has setting down to an art, her back-set to right side is as automatic as her front-set to outside. No matter where the set goes, she can send the ball anywhere. There’s no secret trick to her magic, it’s just practice.
“I don’t know, I’ve just been doing it since freshman year. I really wasn’t a setter at the beginning, but then they made me into a setter because I was quick,” Parks said. “Every day we go on our separate nets and we set everything, 5’s, 2’s, 8’s, 1’s. We’ve been playing together forever, not just volleyball either, softball, and everything. That connection and chemistry helps.”
In the Panthers’ 25-10, 25-10, 25-19 defeat of Newman on Tuesday night, Parks connected to junior outside hitter Kessa Fingalsen for seven kills in just the first set. Fingalsen would add four more on the night, in addition to her six digs on defense.
“We knew she would be good this year, just how good was hard to tell,” Pedersen said. “For a junior, she’s really stepped up. She’s one of our key players to get us a kill when we need a kill.”
It seemed like everyone got their fair share of sets. Senior Anna Dietrich had nine kills, and junior Cassey Bly found her rhythm with the middle quick-sets, recording five kills on the night. Junior Isabel Johanns racked up four sharp, deep kills to throw off the Knights’ defense.
Junior Hannah Ausenhus commanded both defensively and offensively with three kills and three blocks.
The Knights would rally the first few points in both of the first sets before letting the Panthers find their groove behind Parks. Central Springs would go on an eight-point run in the first for an 11-3 lead, and a three- and four-point run in the second for a 20-8 lead to ultimately win both sets 25-10.
The third set was a different story. The Panthers would lose points on hitting and serving errors to keep the Knights in tow, but they would overcome their mistakes for a 25-19 victory.
“Main thing we’ve been focusing on is we need to eliminate our errors,” Pedersen said. “That’s the main thing for us. We do what we can do offensively and defensively. We beat teams 25-10 if we eliminate errors, but we get seven or eight errors, then it’s a tight game.”