Delta gets past No. 27 and 10 in net play

Photo by Wayne Crick Delta’s Dani Sakala played the net well for the Panthers and sparked play with some fierce hits and hustle. Delta is the No. 10 seed in this week’s Class 3A State Volleyball Championships in Denver at the Denver Coliseum. Play begins on Friday and concludes Saturday night with the championship matches set for 7 p.m. in all classifications.

The goal of a team title in volleyball eluded Delta's Panthers in 2015. Now that Delta is in the field of 12 for this year's state volleyball championship, there's hope for more than just a league title.

Thoughts changed last weekend, when regional playoffs concluded.

Now that post-season play has begun, Delta is asserting its athleticism and convincingly proved it is worthy of playing in this year's state volleyball tournament in Denver.

Many of the teams Delta trailed for much of the current season have fallen by the wayside after losses in regional play. Steamboat Springs, Eagle Valley, Battle Mountain and Palisade all lost their playoff bids last weekend, leaving the Panthers as the lone WSL team left in the running.

Delta 3, D'Evelyn 0

There were very few bumps in the road for Delta in its first regional playoff against number 28 D'Evelyn. The Panthers won the first set 25-20 and were in control for much of the way.

After falling behind 10-2 in the second set, Delta rallied for a 25-19 win. Set three went to Delta in an identical 25-19 decision.

Junior outside hitters Ashton Reese and Emily Baier continue to lead the Panthers at the net. Reese had 21 kills and had eight digs on defense. Baier was good for 14 kills, eight digs and served up four aces against D'Evelyn.

Emily Nortnik was stellar in her assist numbers with 39 against D'Evelyn.

Delta 3, Roosevelt 0

Against the Roughriders, Delta was deadly on offense in its 3-0 win. The Panthers won sets one and two by scores of 25-16 and closed the match with a 25-20 third-set win.

Reese had 20 kills in this match and added a pair of aces for good measure. Baier had 12 kills to go with her 16 digs against Roosevelt.

Nortnik's 36 assists against Roosevelt gave her 75 dishes for the two matches played on Saturday.

Delta didn't always have the outside lanes to score on big swings from Reese and Baier. Play in the middle was more than adequate at times with Makayla Mills and Dani Sakala powering home kills to earn points at a time when things weren't working well on the outside. The benefit for the outside game was much appreciated by Reese and Baier. "It's great when we score in the middle. It takes pressure off us (Reese and Baier) and opens things up again."

Reese, on explaining her ability to hit the ball down ... "I don't know how I do it (get so high). It just happens." Not having to think about it is a good thing.

Delta coach Beth Nelson was extremely excited after the win. When asked about her feelings, Nelson expressed high praise for her team. "It's awesome. I'm just trying to compose myself right now. The girls have worked hard all season. We played as a team."

The number nine Panthers take on top-seed Cheyenne Mountain on Friday and face number 12 Silver Creek on Saturday in Pool 1 play. The winner is in the final round on Saturday.

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