By Gary R. Rasberry
NAPOLEON -- Parkway advanced to its second straight Division III regional semifinal after defeating Swanton in three straight games in the district final held at The Grand Canyon in Napoleon.
The Panthers (16-9) will play Rocky River Lutheran West on Thursday in the second match of the regional at Liberty-Benton High School. The Bulldogs end their season at 17-9. Rocky River defeated Wellington in three games at the Oberlin District on Thursday.
The Panthers sandwiched a blowout 25-11 game in Game 2 with a pair of competitive 25-21 games. Parkway only trailed in the first game before getting out to big leads in the last two games.
"That sure helps," said Parkway coach Todd Henkle. "The first game was close. You definitely want to have a breakaway game like we did in the second game to give you some momentum in that third game."
The Panthers had plenty of momentum in the second game. Laura Art started the serving and proceeded to score nine straight points for the Panthers. The first six points of the match came via hitting errors by the Bulldogs, followed by one of 15 kills by Parkway junior Rebekah Roehm. After a timeout, Roehm powered down another spike for an 8-0 lead and Art tallied an ace for 9-0 advantage before the Bulldogs finally got a point and a chance to serve. Swanton began to edge closer and got as cloase as 13-9 before Tiffany Steinbrunner spiked the ball down for the sideout. Parkway finished up by scoring 12 of the last 14 points.
While Roehm showed her dominance at the net, the rest of the Panthers came up with big hitting games as well. Art had seven kills on the match while Erica Yoder added a half-dozen. Steinbrunner added five.
Henkle praised his hitters, but gave plenty of credit to setters Tory Henkle and Erika Snyder.
"I think the unsung heroes this year has been the setters," said coach Henkle. "They haven't gotten much ink, but if our setters don't get our hitters the ball, they're not going to get any kills. They've done a great job in their second year of this. They're at the maturity point where they're doing a great job for us."
Swanton tried to stay in the game with the hitting of Amber Hahn and Abby LaVigne. Hahn had 13 kills on the match, including six in both the first and third games. LaVigne added five kills.
"We knew they had to good hitters in Two (Hahn) and Three (LaVigne)," said Henkle. "Once we blocked (Hahn) and kind of took her out of the match, things started to gel for us."
Now the Panthers return to the regional, where they lost in the semifinals last year to Margaretta at Liberty-Benton. With a year under their belts and players who played on last year's team, Henkle is ready for the regional.
"I think when you get there, there's some nerves involved," said Henkle, who has two state championship titles in his years at Parkway. "We've played against some of the toughest teams in the state. That's going to prepare us well for Lutheran West.