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Eagles firing on all cylinders; No. 1 for playoffs

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Photo by Eric Goold Paonia junior McKenna Palmer tips home a winner against Rangely. No. 1 Paonia has lost only once this season.

The Paonia High School volleyball team won a couple more matches and continued its march toward the state tournament.

The Eagles held off a third set rally by visiting Rangely and beat the Panthers 3-0 last Saturday afternoon. Paonia improved to 15-1 on the season and is No. 1 in 2A.

Paonia took command against Rangely after winning the first two sets 25-19 and 25-17.

But then the scrappy Panthers twice led by three in the third set, jumping ahead 13-10 and 24-21.

McKenna Hartigan, McKenna Palmer and Brianna Vanvleet each hit winners for Paonia to key the late set rally.

Rangely's Sarah Conner, a hard hitting junior who was a thorn in Paonia's side all match, banged home another kill to once again tie the third set at 25-25.

The teams traded points and the score stayed knotted at 26, 27 and 28. Then the Eagles won sideout and Hartigan boomed home her match-high 17th kill and Paonia won 30-28.

"We battled back and stayed in the game and went on to win," Eagles coach Krista Carsten said. "We had some really good swings down the stretch and I was really proud of them for that."

Hartigan was a force at the net for the Eagles and finished with four blocks. Palmer tallied nine kills and smacked five crisp aces from the service line. She also had four blocks.

Rangely provided a strong challenge to the Eagles, who will be tested in their last three matches of the regular season.

Paonia is at Fruita Monument tonight, hosts Caprock tomorrow night and finishes its regular season at Meeker on Friday night.

"I'm not sure what to expect when we see Meeker," Carsten said. "We'll just have to focus on playing our game, focus on what we do on our side of the net. It's nice to play Fruita to see stronger hitting all the way around, and big blocks. They're a quality team. We need that challenge going into our postseason. It pushes us, and that's good. We need to be pushed."

District playoffs are the weekend of Oct. 28-29 at Grand Valley.

Paonia picked up another win last Thursday night when it beat Olathe 25-8, 25-15 and 25-11.

Hartigan led the way once more for the Eagles offense, tallying 13 kills. Sophie Anderson had a match high five blocks in the win.

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