Panthers roar into the district playoffs

For as long as many can remember, the girls volleyball team at Mehlville Senior High School always has known the role of the hunter. Yet for 2003, it is experiencing what it’s like to be the hunted.

The Panthers (29-1, 6-1 Suburban West) are without a doubt one of the hottest teams in the state this season as they ride a 28-game winning streak going into the district playoffs this week. Hunting season has just begun.

“We’re going to see what we’re made of this week,” Mehlville head coach Susan Hurt told the Call. “It’s not going to be a cakewalk. Both Oakville and Lindbergh took us to three games this year.”

Mehlville rounded out the regular season last week with a Suburban West Conference championship and a monumental win over bitter rival Cor Jesu.

On Monday evening of last week, the Panthers celebrated Senior Night with the Chargers of Cor Jesu being at the short end of a 25-20, 25-21 thumping. The win for Mehlville was not only memorable with it being a tribute to the team’s Seniors, but it was also a huge win mentally for the Panthers.

“The kids were so pumped and I was just ecstatic,” Hurt said. “Our win against Nerinx Hall earlier in the year told us that we can do it. I think that the kids are confident, yet not big headed.”

In her last several games, senior setter Kaitlyn Deutsch has been nothing less than on fire as she scored 15 points on 18 serves against Cor Jesu. Deutsch also recorded three aces and four kills on 13 attacks along with eight assists and two blocks. The Panthers’ head coach was quick to note that Deutsch has taken her game to another level in the past week.

“Kaitlyn’s really stepped it up these last couple of weeks,” Hurt said. “She’s been playing out of her mind and is playing with so much confidence.”

The Panthers returned to action last week as they handed Eureka a 25-6, 25-23 pounding, in a key non-conference contest. Eureka finished the 2003 regular season in a three-way tie with Parkway South and Oakville for the Suburban South Conference championship.

“Our starters played in both games and I think they let up a bit in the second game,” Hurt said. “Eureka’s not a team to be taken lightly.”

Along with Mehlville’s success as a team in general, five Panthers received all-conference honors this season with Deutsch, sophomore outside-hitter/setter Andi Moran and senior middle-hitter Jamie Joyner getting first team awards. Sophomore middle hitter Stephanie Joyner grabbed second-team all-conference honors while junior outside hitter Danielle Estopare received all-conference honorable mention.

“That just goes to show you that we don’t have a go-to person on this team,” Hurt said. “We don’t try to push the ball to just one person. The kids have all worked very hard to get here.”

Mehlville opens the district tournament this Wednesday evening as they play host to Lindbergh in the semifinal game at 7 p.m. The championship game of the tournament will be at 6 p.m. this evening.