HERSHEY — The Panthers finished on the winning end of their invite on Saturday.
Hershey won two of the three games played against Ainsworth, Gothenburg and Bridgeport. Both games against Ainsworth and Bridgeport yielded sweeps, while the lone loss came against the Swedes in straight sets.
"I was a little bit disappointed despite being 2-1 on the day," Panthers head coach Amy Beyer said. "I don’t think our kids have that cutthroat mentality yet. They’re satisfied with playing mediocre and winning, which I’d rather play well and lose."
Beyer’s sentiments came directly after posting their second win of the day against Bridgeport, where the Panthers faltered and played sporadically aggressive despite sweeping the Bulldogs in straight sets.
"I honestly think we played better in that game against Gothenburg despite losing than in this last game (Bridgeport) that we won," Beyer said. "Gothenburg came at us though and they were hitting at us, but our kids never gave up or folded."
After opening the invite with a 25-19, 25-15 sweep over Ainsworth, the Panthers met a Gothenburg squad playing their second consecutive game after trouncing Bridgeport (25-9, 25-17) in straight sets.
The Swedes (11-11) carried their momentum against Bridgeport over to the second game, jumping ahead by as many as seven in the opening set against Hershey to snag a 25-18 win.
And they wouldn’t show signs of slowing down.
Gothenburg quickly mounted eight unanswered points to start the second set, leading by as many as 11 before a late Hershey rally slammed the breaks on the Swedes.
Led by a front line of Tahlia Steinbeck, Delaney Love and Keyana Hastings, the Panthers cut the lead to 23-21 on the trio’s 17 combined kills.
"Gothenburg came out more aggressive than us and they were hitting at us and we couldn’t seem to play any defense," Beyer admitted. "But I’m proud of the kids because in that second set we could’ve folded after being down 8-0. I thought they showed some fight and didn’t give up and got back into it."
The Swedes, however, weathered the Panthers’ 11-3 surge and managed to complete the sweep with a 25-21 win.
For Hershey, a slew of miscues late proved too much to overcome, a self-inflicted hindrance that proved nonexistent in their opening win over Ainsworth.
"I thought our first game might have been best," Beyer said. "I thought we played steady, went after them and played with more tenacity than we did against (Bridgeport), where we should’ve took control early and we didn’t do that."
In the opening game of the invite, the Panthers found themselves on the opposite end of a 15-11 Ainsworth lead, but the tenacity that Beyer wanted to see from her team began to seep in.
Behind Steinbeck and Jenna Frels, who had 12 of her team-high 45 assists on the day against Ainsworth, the Panthers powered a 14-4 rally to win the first set,
And they continued the streak well into the second set.
The Panthers led by as many as 10 in the second set, completing a 25-15 win to sweep the Bulldogs.
In the final game of the day, the Panthers went back and forth with a scrappy Bridgeport squad seeking its first win of the tournament.
Hershey opened a comfortable five-point cushion in the first set, which they turned into a win by outscoring the Bulldogs 25-20.
Both teams went back and forth in a second set, which showcased six lead changes and seven ties.
Tied at 14 apiece, the Panthers mustered a 11-4 run to gain separation and escape with a 25-18 win to complete the sweep.
Hershey returns to action at home on Thursday against Valentine.