The Royall volleyball team christened its new court with help from an established senior and a budding freshman.
After slow starts in each set, the Panthers rebounded and cruised the rest of the night, sweeping New Lisbon 3-0 in a Scenic Bluffs Conference match Sept. 5 in Elroy. Royall won with scores of 25-13, 25-18 and 25-16 in the Panthers’ first contest on a sparkling new gym floor installed this summer.
Senior McKenzie Baeseman, who led the Panthers with 17 kills, said her team didn’t get rattled when the Rockets had them down early.
“We’re a very new team so those things are going to happen where you have some miscommunication and a couple balls drop, but we’re always able to figure it out and come back,” Baeseman said.
Baeseman, an outside hitter, worked well in tandem with fellow front-liner Emma Gruen, a freshman who doesn’t seem fazed by varsity competition. In the final set, with the Panthers looking to put New Lisbon away, Baeseman, working from the left side, set a ball to Gruen on the right who buried a kill to increase the Panthers’ lead.
“I played as a freshmen too so I knew what to say to her to make her more comfortable,” Baeseman said. “She’s done really well at fitting in and working hard. She’s never set before so that’s really a cool thing to see her work hard at and do really well.”
Gruen finished with nine kills on 13 attempts for a .615 hitting percentage. She also had 14 assists. Baeseman had 10 assists, seven service aces and seven digs on defense. Junior middle hitter Claire Herek had six kills and one block. Sophomore libero Savannah Dewitt posted seven digs.
“She gets a lot of things back there; not much falls when she’s there,” Baeseman said. “Claire played well. She was out with an ankle injury so she didn’t play in a tournament and a scrimmage so she did well coming back tonight.”
New Lisbon was led by juniors Callie Bever and Kayla Steele, each finishing with five kills and six digs. Bever also had eight assists. Senior middle hitter Morgan Brooner posted two blocks and six digs.
Rockets coach Scott Lenz said he knew his team would have some inconsistencies playing its first match of the season.
“We did some good things but then we struggled to side-out right away and it was just a matter of time before Baeseman found a way to put the ball on the floor,” Lenz said. “I thought Gruen did an excellent job setting for a freshman.”
Lenz was pleased with Brooner’s performance, but hopes for more consistency from the Rockets as they dive into their season.
Royall coach Craig Baeseman said having a few early-season tournaments helped the Panthers prepare for the SBC grind. With the Sept. 5 victory, Royall improved to 7-6.
“We knew if we could control the ball at first contact we would be OK,” coach Baeseman said. “We had some rough patches and made some errors, but overall, we played well. The big thing was serving at the right people. Once we started hitting our spots and taking them out of their system, we could get the ball to Kenzie and she’s a good hitter.”
New floor unveiled
The match with New Lisbon was Royall’s first chance to showcase its renovated gym. A new floor was installed a couple months ago. As of Sept. 5, new bleachers were installed on the left side of the gym, but the stage-area bleachers were not finished. A new air-conditioning system was also put in but with cool temperatures sweeping through the area, it wasn’t needed for the Panthers’ home-opener.
“Once we get the bleachers up and filled it will be really nice,” coach Baeseman said.