By Gary R. Rasberry
NAPOLEON -- Parkway certainly knows how to keep its fans in suspense in a volleyball match.
The Panthers trailed by margins of 24-23, 22-21 and 21-20 in their three games of the Division III district final against Swanton at The Grand Canyon in Napoleon, then came back to win each game to post the 3-0 sweep over the Bulldogs to advance to the regional semifinals for the third straight season.
Parkway (14-12) plays Centerburg (17-6) in the second game of the semifinal doubleheader on Wednesday at Liberty-Benton High School. The winner returns on Saturday to play the winner of Columbus Grove and Castillia Margaretta at 2 p.m.
The Panthers staved off a loss in the first game by taking the Bulldogs to extra points. Parkway trailed 24-23, 25-24, 26-25, 27-26 and 28-27 before tying the match at 28 when Swanton's Heather Hilton hit a spike into the net. Laura Art stepped up and served up an ace to finally give Parkway a chance for game point. On the next serve, Rebekah Roehm came up behind teammate Erika Snyder and got the kill to finally win the marathon game, 30-28.
"In these types of tournaments, where you don't know the opponent, you need to come out not so flat," said Parkway coach Todd Henkle. "We were a little bit in that mode in the first game. "That first game was a side-out ordeal back and forth. We finally got up on them by one and got a break."
Swanton started game two with an 8-5 lead before Parkway got the point and sideout with the hard-hitting Roehm going back to serve. Roehm jump-served the Panthers into the lead, which included four aces to make it 11-8.
The Bulldogs came back and got up 18-15 and Parkway battled back to tie it at 19 and 20 before Swanton made a last run to lead 22-21. The Bulldogs weren't able to build on the lead as a hit into the net gave Parkway the tie and the serve. Roehm got another kill to put Parkway up 23-22 and a hit into the net by Heidi Hilton made it game point. Jessica Fowler gave Swanton a chance with a kill to get the serve back, but on the ensuing serve, Roehm faked the power hit and dinked the game-winner over for the 25-23 win.
Again in game three, Swanton took an early lead at 11-8, only to have Parkway once again work its way into the game, tying the score at 16, 17, 19, 20 and 21 bnefore getting a lead at 22-21 with a Roehm kill.
A Swanton hitting error made it 23-21 before the Bulldogs got to 23-22 on a sideout. Roehm got the serve back with a kill before Fowler made it 24-23 with a kill of her own. Roehm wrapped up the match with a kill for another 25-23 win.
"They're a nice team," Henkle said of Swanton. "They have a couple of nice hitters. We took advantage of a few mistakes they made.
"That's one good thing about how we're playing right now. Towards the end of the season, we weren't getting in the mode to catch up with teams. Hopefully we'll reverse that Wednesday and jump out 4-5 points. I like that mode a little better."
Roehm dominated the attack for Parkway, getting 20 kills and seven aces in the match. Art added six kills.
With the majority of the team part of the last two district teams, Henkle likes how his team lines up against the other three teams.
"I don't think it will be anything new walking into Liberty-Benton. That will definitely be to our advantage," said Henkle. "We have to go in with 100-percent confidence. If we play that way, we'll be fine."