Panthers fight off Gladiators

CHASSELL – Just when the Chassell Panthers needed a spark Thursday in a Mountain Lakes Conference volleyball match versus Ontonagon, their latest export came through.

Bernardita Neria, a foreign exchange student from Chile, served three key service aces in the fifth and deciding set as Chassell took a 3-2 (25-27, 25-18, 25-20, 25-22, 15-10) victory at Ed Helakoski Memorial Gymnasium.

“She (Neria) has been kind of the missing piece to the puzzle for us,” CHS skipper Gael Filpus said. “She’s our firecracker … she gives us a boost.”

The Panthers – coming off a big win over Lake Linden-Hubbell on Tuesday -had to shake off a few lethargic opening moments to turn aside the determined Gladiators.

Rookie OAHS coach Megan Tucker was pleased with her team’s showing.

“We knew Chassell had just upset LL-Hubbell two nights ago,” Tucker noted. “But I thought we came out and played pretty well. We would have liked a different outcome, but I liked our intensity.”

Filpus said her team started gaining momentum after falling behind by a 20-9 count in the fourth set.

“We came back pretty strong (getting to within 23-21) and played pretty well in the fifth set,” she said.

Breaking from a 8-8 deadlock in the final set, Chassell surged away as Neria and Annie Ruohonen dominated from the service line.

Ruohonen was outstanding throughout, coming with a team-best 10 aces, 14 kills and three blocks.

Kristen Daavettila was close behind with seven assists, 10 digs and four kills. Shelby Seppanen added four aces, 14 assists and six kills. Maddy Huhta contributed four aces and six kills, Neria had nine aces and Macy Holombo chipped in 17 digs.

Tucker said her team’s goal is to improve with each match.

“We’re not really concerned with the record, we’re just striving to get better and win as many matches as we can,” she said.

Jenn Stewart was a standout for the Glads with team-high six kills, nine aces and eight blocks. Brooke Turin had six kills and six digs, Rebecca Karttunen was good for four kills and six assists, Abby Polakowski had five aces, Abby Domitrovich chipped in six digs and Logan Preiss contributed five assists.

Chassell goes to West Iron County on Tuesday.