Despite one set going over 25 points, the Panthers closed out their opening-round conference matchup with a 25-21, 27-25, 25-19 victory on Monday.

In the first round of the Heartland Athletic Conference tournament, the Panthers made mistakes at both the service line and on the attack, but they were able to get Lincoln Northeast out of system throughout the match, along with taking control late in each set.

“It’s a matter of playing one point at time. Both teams made a ton of mistakes, and we let them hang around,” Norfolk coach Dave Hepner said. “The girls adjusted really well, and it was a good performance from top to bottom. I’m super pleased with their effort, and their attitudes were great.”

After winning the first set 25-21, the Panthers came out slowly in the second, allowing Lincoln Northeast to get out to a 6-1 lead.

Later in the set, after Norfolk had tied the set at 21, Lincoln Northeast went on a run, taking a 24-21 lead later in the set.

The Panthers fought right back on two errors and a kill by Cameryn Skiff, including a lengthy point at 24-23 to keep the set alive.

Norfolk took a 25-24 lead on a kill by Tasha Eisenhauer, and then the Panthers closed out the set on the next point, with an ace from Ahnika Beltz.

“It was a pivotal set. It felt like a five-set match because of how close that was,” Hepner said. “The girls knew that it wasn’t over until it was over. We just kept fighting, fighting and fighting.”

While Norfolk didn’t play its best match, the Panthers did take advantage of Lincoln Northeast at the service line and on the attack. The Panthers were able to serve up nine aces while Lincoln Northeast had three service errors.

Norfolk’s Tessa Gall led the attack with 14 kills, with Carly Ries and Eisenhauer each having 10 kills.

Also on defense, the Panthers had nine blocks.

“All of our middles can step up offensively and defensively, and we had some really critical blocks to shut them down,” Hepner said. “As a hitter from the other side, they will start tipping and then offensively we can tee off and take some swings. Everybody stepped up.”

Norfolk was able take seven out of the last 10 points to finish off the sweep.

The Panthers will get back in action on Tuesday at Fremont in the first round of the championship bracket in the HAC tournament.

“We’ve got a tough road ahead and all we can do is go out and play one point at a time,” Hepner said. “The girls and staff have really bought in. We are pleased with where we are at heading into the next round, hopefully we can make some noise.”

Norfolk defeated Lincoln Northeast 25-21, 27-25, 25-19

LINCOLN NORTHEAST (11-19): Laney Songster 5k, 1a; Tasia Sadler 7k; Andrea Pryce 2a; Maleaka Boedhram 6k, 1a; Doneelah Washington 6k, 5b; Serena Heeren 7k, 5b.

NORFOLK (17-14): Carlie Streich 2k, 3a; Tessa Gall 14k, 2a; Jayda Christensen 2k, 1b; Erin Schwanebeck 1k, 1a; Cameryn Skiff 4k, 1a, 5b; Ahnika Beltz 1a; Carly Ries 10k, 1b; Lauren Hinrichs 1k, 1b; Tasha Eisenhauer 10k, 1b, 1a.

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