Blue Earth Area took their opponent to five games but came up short in the end losing 21-25, 25-23, 14-25, 25-18, 11-15.
“I’m sad the season is over because these girls enjoy playing together. They get along well and pick each other up,” said Buc head coach Donna Nawrocki. “I am very proud of them.”
The Panthers, coached by Blue Earth Area alum Joe Kuechenmeister, overcame a five-point deficit to take the opening game of the contest.
Trailing 18-13, the Panthers scored nine of the next 10 points to take a 22-19 lead.
A kill by Janessa Jahnke and a misplayed ball by the Panthers closed the gap to one point, with the Panthers on top 22-21. The Panthers closed out the match with three straight points to take the first game.
The Bucs found themselves in a big hole early in game two with the Panthers taking a quick 9-2 lead. However, the maroon and gold showed their muster, slowly working themselves back into the game.
A Krista Hassing kill – off a Macy Henningsen set – brought the Bucs to within three points of the Panthers at 12-15.
Hassing then stepped to the service line and three serves later an Annemarie Hoyt kill tied the game at 15-15.
What followed for the rest of the game resembled a boxing match with each team punching and counterpunching and a gymnasium full of fans cheering very loudly for their respective teams.
The Panthers took the lead 16-15 but the Bucs scored the next three points to gain an 18-16 advantage.
The teams traded points making it 19-17 in favor of the maroon and gold.
Four straight points by the Panthers gave them a 21-19 advantage.
Jahnke’s tip over the Panthers front row defenders closed the gap to one point. The Panthers scored on a Carlie Wagner kill to take a 22-20 lead. A net serve by the Panthers and a kill by Hassing knotted the score at 22 all.
Two more points by the Bucs brought them to game point at 24-22, but Anna Schlaak pounded one down for the Panthers to make it 24-23. A kill by the Bucs’ Sara Warmka stopped the Panthers’ rally and sealed the victory for the Bucs – tying the match at one game apiece.
Game three was all Panthers with the Bucs falling behind 10-1 and not being able to recover.
The Bucs were now faced with a must-win situation in game four.
Hassing’s ace block put the Bucs on the board first. A hit into the net by the Panthers gave the Bucs a 2-0 lead. The Panthers scored on an ace block to make it 2-1 and then BEA began to take control, opening up an 8-3 lead.
The Panthers would narrow the Bucs margin to three points at 10-7, but kills by Jahnke and Hassing and ace serves by Hoyt and Henningsen helped propel BEA to an 18-9 lead.
With the Bucs holding a 23-18 advantage, kills by Jahnke and Hassing put the finishing touches on their game four victory, forcing a deciding game five.
The final game proved to be another close battle. The game was tied at one all and two all before the Panthers pulled ahead 6-3.
Just when it appeared the game might be getting away from the Bucs, the Panthers sent a serve into the net making the score 6-4.
Nicole Carr stepped to the service line and served for two points, the second point coming on a serve that hit the top of the net and fell on the Panthers’ side of the court.
Suddenly, BEA had pulled back into a 6-6 tie. Unfortunately for the Bucs, the Panthers gained the upper hand with a 6-2 run that put them ahead 12-8.
The Bucs pulled to within two points of the Panthers at 12-10, but were not able to overtake their opponent.
The Panthers won the deciding game by the final score of 15-11.
Hassing led BEA with 18 kills, 13 dugs and three ace blocks.
Jahnke added 14 kills and was 20 of 21 serving with nine points. Macy Henningsen was 18 of 20 serving with 10 points and two ace serves, as well as having 40 set assists.
Warmka added eight kills for the Bucs and 14 digs.
Nicole Carr had 12 digs and Hoyt 11.
So the season comes to an end for the Bucs who ended with a 19-9 overall record. Their conference record of 9-1 earned them the South Central Conference title.
The conference title is even more impressive when you consider the fact that they lost one of their best all-around players, Jenny Smith, before the first game started.
The SCC title marks the third time in the last four years that the Bucs have won the conference. During that four-year period they have compiled a 35-5 conference record.
The Bucs graduate six seniors from this year’s squad. They are Jenny Smith, Sara Warmka, Nicole Carr, Annemarie Hoyt, Macy Henningsen, and Cassie Rauenhorst.