Parkway’s Clista Hellwarth (right) rejects a South Adams shot during the Lady Panthers’ 3-set win on Tuesday in Rockford. Hellwarth had four blocks during the match. (DHI Media/Pat Agler)
Parkway’s Clista Hellwarth (right) rejects a South Adams shot during the Lady Panthers’ 3-set win on Tuesday in Rockford. Hellwarth had four blocks during the match. (DHI Media/Pat Agler)
DHI Media Sports Editor
ROCKFORD — It isn’t often that the Lady Panthers have any kind of a height advantage on the volleyball court. Things were no different when Parkway hosted South Adams on Tuesday evening, but the resourceful Panthers used directional attacks and a strong service game to sweep the Starfires in three sets, 25-11, 26-24, and 25-19.
That’s what we talk about, it’s going to be like that all the time,” Panther head coach Jeff Marbaugh said following the match. “You can still be aggressive, just be smart. Hit over the top, hit around, for the most part we do a nice job of trying to miss that block somehow.”
Most everything that could go right for the Lady Panthers, did go right in the opening set. The Parkway service game was strong, as they moved the ball around, creating difficult returns and allowing their offense to take control. Aces by Sydney Swygart, Sarah Gehron and Whitney Rollins helped the Panthers build a 22-10 lead and Clista Hellwarth effectively slammed the door on the Starfires in set one with a blast from the center of the net.
The Starfires came back with a strong effort in the second game. After the teams split the first six points of the set, A Kylie Grabau tap and a block by Morgan Alberson put South Adams ahead.

The Starfires would lead by as many as five on two separate occasions, but Parkway did just enough to hang around. Three times the Panthers cut the lead to one before South Adams would again pull away. The Lady Panthers finally drew even at 19-19 when freshman Haley Hawk found open court on a tap over the Starfire block, and Hawk gave Parkway the lead at 20-19 when her slam went through the blockers and to the floor.
South Adams re-took the lead briefly at 22-21, but Parkway’s Rollins connected on a blast to the corner and Hellwarth put the Panthers on the doorstep with a block for 23-22. After South Adams forced extra points, a blast from Madison Roehm gave Parkway another lead. When the Starfires couldn’t clear the net on the following point, Parkway held a 2-set advantage.
In the what proved to be the final set, Parkway had to hold on to a lead to put away the match.
A Hellwarth blast put the Panthers up 7-4 early on, and it appeared they were in control, but South Adams fought back to take a lead at 11-10 when Emma Rossworm connected on a kill followed by a blast from Grabau. A Kayla Stephenson bomb re-tied the score, and the Panthers moved ahead when South Adams was out of rotation. The Panthers went up 16-13 on another Stephenson kill, but again the Starfires came back, taking a 17-16 lead on a pair of Alberson kills and an ace by Grabau.
From there, it was all Parkway, however. Three hitting errors by South Adams set up a tap by Hawk to put the Panthers up by four at 22-18 and Hawk sealed the match with a blast from the middle of the court.
“I thought we served the ball a little bit tougher finally in that third game,” Marbaugh said. “Even being scrappier in the third game, I thought we picked up a few more balls and made some rally-point plays and that we didn’t make in that second game or even in the first game.”
The Panthers move to 5-2 on the season.
“I thought we got after it tonight,” Marbaugh added. “We were streaky. We handled the ball for a little bit, then didn’t handle it. The second game went back and forth and we just weren’t real clean with the ball, but we had to make plays to come back at the end of the second game.”