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Panthers fall in tough test with Pierce
The first loss of the Maxwell High volleyball team's season came on Tuesday and was delivered by Pierce in Arbuckle.
After winning their first three matches of the season, the Panthers succumbed to the experience and precision of the Bears, losing 25-16, 25-14 and 25-13.
Despite the loss, the Panthers were able to derive many positives from playing a Bears team which is stocked club volleyball players.
"This is good for us… they're the best team we've played and we will draw benefit from this experience," Maxwell coach Dan Gellermann said.
The Panthers got off to a strong start, taking an 11-10 lead on a kill by senior Jessica Jenkins, but the Bears went on an 11-2 run and Morgan Diaz ended Game 1 with an ace, one of her team-leading three aces.
Maxwell's tenacity forced long rallies but attacking errors prevented the Panthers from keeping pace.
"They were pretty scrappy because we can normally get tips down and they had us on the tips. We had to adjust and start hitting the ball," Pierce coach Kim Travis said.
The Panthers' improvement this season stood out to Travis from across the net. She said Maxwell's passing and hitting is vastly improved after just trying to get the ball over on the third touch in years past.
"They are much better than they were last year; better than they have been the last couple years," she said.
The Bears leapt to an 11-4 lead in the second game before Maxwell scored four consecutive points with Brittney Haywood serving.
Natalie Corona and Mariah Diaz began to take over the net for Pierce late in the second game. Corona finished the match with eight kills and was in on four blocks, and Diaz made seven kills and was in on six blocks.
The two juniors began playing together in seventh grade and have spent the last three years honing their timing for the Bears and playing club volleyball in the off-season.
"(Kim's) a great coach and we wouldn't be able to do anything that we do now without her," Corona said.
Jenna Powell pulled the Panthers within 8-7 in the third game, but Mariah Diaz and Morgan Diaz took turns serving to build a 19-8 lead as Pierce once again pulled away.
Kaily McKinley led Maxwell with seven kills, Jenkins had four kills and Jenna Powell added three.
The Panthers (3-1) have a home game against non-league opponent Paradise Adventist Academy set for Thursday.
Pierce (7-2) opens Sacramento Valley League with two home games this week. The Bears play Durham on Tuesday and Esparto on Thursday.
CONTACT Kirk Barron at 458-2121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.