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Putnam County senior Taylor Erjasvek (left) hits the ball past Marquette’s Kendall Kaufmann (right, front) and Lindsey Duttlinger during the Lady Panthers’ 25-18, 25-18 victory Tuesday in Ottawa. NewsTribune photo/Chris Yucus
Marquette’s Ashley Bretag (right) tries to fish a ball out of the net Tuesday during the Lady Crusaders’ 25-18, 25-18 loss to Putnam County in a Tri-County Conference match in Ottawa. NewsTribune photo/Chris Yucus
OTTAWA — This season, Taylor Erjasvek and the Putnam County volleyball team wanted to show how far the program has come.
It’s safe to say that goal has been achieved.
Just two years removed from a 4-26 season, the Lady Panthers beat Marquette 25-18, 25-18 on Tuesday to wrap up a Tri-County Conference regular season championship with an 8-0 league mark.
“It’s been a while since Putnam County has had a record like this,” Erjasvek said. “It’s really important to us to show everyone the program has gotten so much better, so winning the Tri-County Conference Tournament and now being undefeated in the conference is really important.”
The Lady Panthers showed early Tuesday they were ready to dispatch the final TCC team in their path to perfection.
Erjasvek set the tone as she had a kill and a block on the first two volleys to propel PC to a 5-0 lead.
“Our serving was really good at the beginning,” Erjasvek said. “We were putting the ball away and running our quicks, and our blocking was really good tonight, too.”
Putnam County pushed its lead to 12-4 before Marquette coach Mindy McConnaughhay called a timeout.
“I think our defense was a huge key tonight,” PC coach Amy Kreiser said. “We had a lot of blocks — complete stuff blocks and a lot of touches that really helped our back row to dig up the ball and (helped) us run our quick offense.”
Out of the timeout, the Lady Crusaders started to claw back into the game and made a big push behind the serving of Sydnee Stalker.
Stalker stepped to the line with Marquette down 16-10 and rattled off four consecutive serves — including two aces — to pull the Lady Cru within three at 16-13.
Marquette got as close as two points at 17-15, but PC eventually closed the set with a three-point run by Paige Griffith that included a pair of blocks by Kayte Bernadoni.
The second set played out very similar to the first as the Lady Panthers jumped out to a 15-4 lead — highlighted by an eight-point service run by Taylor Pettit that featured three aces — before the Lady Cru rallied again.
Again, it was Stalker’s serving that got Marquette back into the set as she had three consecutive aces to start a six-point run that pull the Lady Cru within four at 16-12.
Marquette pulled within two at 17-15, but the Lady Panthers again held off the rally and ended the match on a kill by Erjasvek.
“At the end of the day, we got beat by a better team,” McConnaughhay said. “Putnam is just an arsenal. They keep coming at you. It doesn’t matter who hits the ball, they all hit it hard and they’re incredibly smart. To be as close as we were, I’m OK with it. We kept fighting. I’m proud about that.”
Stalker had five digs and a pair of kills to go along with her 11 points and five aces for Marquette (17-12, 5-2 TCC), while Kendall Kaufmann had five kills and five digs.
Erjasvek had nine kills, six points, four digs and a pair of blocks for PC, which finishes the regular season 25-4-1.
Pettit had 13 points, two kills and two digs, Griffith contributed 12 assists, seven points and three digs and Annie Miller added nine digs and a pair of aces.
Note: The PC sophomore team won 25-16, 20-25, 25-15, while the PC freshman team won 25-19, 25-15.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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