Coach Amy Beyer
The Lady Panthers are going to the state volleyball tournament, even though they fell to North Platte St. Pat's in the subdistrict finals on Oct. 30. Hershey, still practicing, is preparing to play St. Pat's again at 9 a.m. Thursday in the first round of the state tournament.
The 17-10 Panthers are the No. 8 seed in the tournament, earning a wild card berth. Hershey coach Amy Beyer said that she knew her team had a chance, so they continued to practice for three days after the loss to St. Pat's.
"We are very pumped for the opportunity to play at the state tournament," said Beyer. "Actually, we had an idea that we were still in the hunt for a wild card after the district match, but it was kind of a long shot. We did continue to practice just in case we were the lucky team."
The NSAA power point system, which determines the seeding for subdistricts and the state tournament, rewards teams that play tougher schedules, as evidenced by Hershey's entry into state.
Seven of the Lady Panthers' 10 losses have come to Kearney Catholic, St. Pat's and Sutherland, three teams who are seeded No. 1 or No. 2 in their classes. The only losing team that has defeated Hershey is Broken Bow, which was the season opener.
"Obviously, our schedule helped us tremendously," Beyer said. "The loss that really hurt us in points was the loss to Broken Bow in the very first game of the year. Just shows how important it is to play them all well. But, all the rest of our losses were to division one teams (teams that have the highest winning percentage) which helps in your wildcard points."
This will be Hershey's first state appearance in six years. Beyer said that the one thing that stands out for this team compared to some of her other teams since its last state appearance in 2006 is its chemistry. It's just a more cohesive unit.
"We have more intangibles than the past couple of years," said Beyer. "What I mean by that is that the kids really get along well and enjoy being together this season. I have learned that you can all of the talent in the world, but if the kids are not comfortable around one another and cannot develop that chemistry, you will struggle."
With a group of dynamic outside hitters such as Maegan Hiatt and Daynlee Miller, the Panthers can play at the net with nearly anybody. But they have also been inconsistent passing the ball, which is why they don't have a better record.
"We have been pretty steady in the hitting aspect of the game and have consistently hit at about 85-percent," Beyer said. " However, we have been sketchy sometimes in the passing area. We will work hard on that to prepare (for state)."
In each of Hershey's six previous trips to state, they have never drawn anyone from west of Grand Island in the first round before. But now, the Panthers will be playing their arch-rivals from 13 miles down the road in St. Pat's.
Beyer said that it takes work to find video and information on a team from the eastern part of the state, so having St. Pat's in the first round is a lot easier in that regard.
"It is better in that I do not have to call and ask for scouting reports and game film in order to prepare for this team," she said. " We know them almost as well as we know our own team. However, it would be nice to not have to eliminate one another. It would be great to have both of us knock out some team from down east and then see each other later in the bracket. But we will take the opportunity and enjoy every minute of it."
The Lady Panthers are 0-3 this year against the Irish. Beyer said that Hershey hasn't been able to put together a complete match against St. Pat's and there would be no finer time to do so than on Thursday.
"We have done some decent things in our previous matchups with St. Patís just not very consistently," said Beyer. " We need to solid up our game all the way around to beat them, but I think we are capable of doing that."