With eight lettermen back from a team that was 17-15 overall and conference champions in 2018, the Knoxville Panthers were looking to be even better this year.

Coach Mollie Keitges’ squad is off to a fast start, picking up seven wins in the first two days of competition.

After claiming wins the first day of the season at home over Carlisle, Oskaloosa and Ottumwa, the Panthers kicked it up a notch as they played at the Newton Tournament Tuesday, Aug 27.

In Newton the Panthers beat Des Moines Hoover 21-16, 21-7, Newton 21-13, 21-9, Saydel 21-7, 21-5 and PCM (Monroe) 21-4 21-16.

With straight set wins against all four squads Tuesday it was a combination of strong hitting at the net, defense and strong serving.

The Panthers had seven ace serves in three of the four matches, the lone exception was only three against the Newton Cardinals.

Against the Hoover Huskies, the Panthers had six kills from Katie Keitges and four by Tara Uitermarkt.

Marley McKay set the team up well with 12 assists.

Knoxville was 37-of-41 serving with six aces, led by Amy Sullivan with two.

Against the Newton Cardinals Keitges had 11 kills, Amy Sullivan and Reilly Finarty each added four. McKay totaled 16 assists in the match.

Maggie Wilkins led the defense with 10 digs followed by Sullivan with six, Keitges five, Finarty and Melanie Sullivan each contributed four.

Sullivan had two of Knoxville’s three ace serves.

The Panthers easily flew past the Saydel Eagles. Uitermarkt had three kills and Finarty two in the win.

McKay finished with six assists. Keitges had three digs, while Sullivan, Wilkins and Alyssa Vaske each added two.

Kira Deaver and Lauren Micetich each had two ace serves.

Knoxville rolled past PCM 21-4, 21-16.

Keitges, Finarty and Sullivan led in kills. McKay had 13 assists in the victory.

Wilkins had a very strong defensive effort with 13 digs followed by Sullivan with six and McKay five.

McKay was 14-of-14 serving with five ace serves.

So, the Panthers enter week two of the season with a strong 7-0 mark in 2019.

Perry Bell can be reached at sports@journalexpress.net or by calling the newsroom at 641-842-2155.

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