Jefferson High’s volleyball squad cruised into mid-season form last week, sweeping two conference matchups in straight sets and taking second in a tough weekend tournament at Choteau.
Three Forks visited Boulder on Thursday—and its C and JV teams were dispatched by the Panthers to start the afternoon. Then, the varsity girls took over. Emma McCauley put over a kill and Gracie Leiva followed with an ace to give Jefferson a 3-1 lead. Another ace by Leiva made it 14-9, and Dakota Edmisten powered over a hard kill and followed with a sneak to put the Panthers up 18-12. A block point by Sophie Livesey made it 20-13 and Rachel Van Blaricom finished it out with a kill to give the Panthers a 25-17 win.
In the second, Edmisten and Van Blaricom showed they can put over kills from anywhere on the court, with both making hard kills from the back row. Throw in another ace by Leiva, and the Panthers went up 18-12. Edmisten finished off the game with a hard kill and an ace for a 25-16 win.
Three Forks made it interesting in the third, staying close most of the way. An ace by Haleigh Henschel gave the Panthers some breathing room, 12-7, and a Van Blaricom kill made it 21-15. But the Wolves came back with a 9-3 run to pull within two, 24-22, before Edmisten finished it off with a kill the win, 25-22.
Leiva led the Panthers with 4 aces. Edmisten put down 20 kills, and Van Blaricom added 18. McCauley had 20 digs, Livesay made 3 blocks and Sydney Mace contributed 20 assists.
On Friday, the action started at 1 p.m. so the girls could take part in Homecoming Royalty introductions before that evening’s football game. The Panthers wasted no time, jumping out to a 20-5 lead and going on to win the first game 25-7. In the second set, the teams were tied at 2, 3, 4 and 5 before the Panthers took over: Baylee Toney put over a kill, Leiva served an ace and Jefferson closed out the game with a 20-11 run for a 25-16 win. The third stayed close in the early going, but the Panthers finished with a 15-5 run to win, 25-15.
The Panthers set off early the next morning for an all-day tournament in Choteau. They took down Belt and Anaconda, then faced host Choteau. The tournament scoring was different than normal, with teams going to 21, taking a short break, then finishing the game with the first to 42 points the winner.
The Panthers started with the first 3 points and went up 6-3 on an Edmisten kill. Choteau came back to tie the game at 10, but Van Blaricom put over three straight kills to make it 15-10, helping Jefferson to a 21-17 edge at the break. The Panthers went on a run to start the second half and were up 28-23 after an Edmisten kill. An ace by McCauley made it 36-29, and Jefferson went on to win, 42-33.
Next up was Malta. A couple of kills by Edmisten and an ace by Leiva gave the Panthers an 8-1 lead. Two more aces by McCauley and a kill by Van Blaricom made it 14-3, and Jefferson sailed to a 21-11 halftime gap. Malta came back to pull to within 6, but the Panthers closed it out with a run to win the match, 42-32.
That put the Panthers in a rematch with Choteau in the final match of the long day. The scoring reverted back to normal, with best two out of three 25-point games. Toney slammed down a kill to put Jefferson up 3-1, and an Edmisten ace made it 7-4. But Choteau came back to take a 11-9 lead, and made it 19-14. The Panthers regrouped, but Choteau went on to win the first 25-21.
Fatigue from Homecoming and three matches in a week were showing, but the Panthers started the second with a 7-3 run on an ace by McCauley, and Mace made it 8-4 with a kill. But the Bulldogs crept back and tied the game at 17. Two blocks by Edmisten gave Jefferson a 20-17 lead, and the Panthers were up 23-22, but the game went to Choteau 25-23.
This week the Panthers will be at Park High in Livingston on Thursday. And the annual Jefferson tournament is Saturday, Oct. 2, with teams from Shelby, Choteau, Florence, Joliet, Colstrip and Jefferson playing all day in the two JHS gyms. Action starts at 9 a.m.
Jefferson took on Class B second-ranked Columbus at home on Friday night. It was a tough-fought game, and the Panthers had their chances—but the Cougars came out on top, 26-14.
The Panthers took advantage early on, when Wade Rykal came up with a Columbus fumble. After a Columbus encroachment gave Jefferson with 3rd and one, Riley Stock ran for a first down to the 27; a pass from Braden Morris to Joey Visser went to the 15, and another encroachment call on Columbus made it first and 5 at the 10. Another Morris pass to Visser was good for a touchdown, the extra point by Dylan Root was good, and the Panthers took a 7-0 lead.
Columbus answered with a touchdown less than two minutes later. But their kick was no good, and the Panthers held a 7-6 edge with 5:58 left. Zack Supalla returned the Columbus kickoff to the 42, and Stock picked up a first down, but Columbus intercepted a Panther pass and returned it to the Jefferson 32. The Panther defense clamped down, and Jefferson took over on downs.
In the second quarter, a long run put the Cougars in the end zone. They went for two and failed, making it 12-7. But Luke Oxarart took the Columbus kickoff 81 yards, going untouched into the end zone. Root’s kick was good, and the score was 14-12 Panthers.
After the teams traded punts, the Cougars ran to the 34 and then to the Panther 24. An encroachment call on Jefferson gave Columbus second and 5, and they took advantage, scoring on a run with 1:24 left in the half. They went for two and made it this time, leaving the score 20-14 at the half.
Both defenses clamped down in the third, with no scoring. Columbus finished the scoring with 6:46 left in the game, then held on for the win.
The Panthers’ 14 points were the first allowed by Columbus this year. Morris threw 35 times for 150 yards, Visser had four receptions for 43 yards, Jake Genger made five catches for 37 yards, and Stock ran 10 times for 35 yards.
This Friday, the Panthers travel to Three Forks; game time is 7 p.m.
A few Panther “hoofers” competed in the large cross-country meet in Butte on Saturday. Logan Hornung finished in 19:04, Dom Hurlbert in 19:12 and Christian Gillmore in 20:26. Among the girls, Renea Parker finished in 20:28. They will run on Saturday at Three Forks.