It was a record-breaking year for the Knoxville Panther varsity volleyball team in and out of the Panther Den.
Knoxville reeled off 16 straight wins en route to an overall mark of 25-8. The team was perfect at 6-0 in the South Central Conference en route to a third straight league championship, which was clinched in Centerville back on Oct. 15.
In league games the Panthers only lost three games. They posted an amazing league won-loss game mark of 18-3.
Knoxville had a narrow escape in Eddyville before rallying from a 2-1 deficit to claim the win.
The Panthers went over a month before suffering their first loss of the year at the Pella Christian Tournament Sept. 28 to the host team, Pella Christian 2-1.
The season opened Aug. 26 with a Panther win over the Carlisle Wildcats, Oskaloosa Indians and Ottumwa Bulldogs.
Ironically the season would come to a sudden end with a loss to Carlisle at home in Regional action Oct. 29.
During the season the Panthers cranked out some new school marks.
Katie Keitges became the school record holder for Kills in a Career with 972, surpassing Stacy Avitt’s 966 total set in 1993.
Avitt by the way played on a volleyball scholarship at the University of West Virginia.
Maggie Wilkins set the school record for Digs in a Season with 470 digs, topping the old mark of 447 set by Cassidy Pearson in 2017
Wilkins is also the new school record holder for Digs per Set in a Season with 5.6 digs per set topping Stacy Avitt’s 4.91 average in 1991.
Keitges finished her career with over 1,000 digs (1065).
Marley McKay reached 1,000 career assists (finishing at 1,571 with her senior season left. She currently sits 4th on the school leaderboard.
Charlee Heffron was award the Knoxville “Panther Award” at the team banquet.
Panther Coach Mollie Keitges replied, “The award goes to the student-athlete that exemplifies the hard work and positive attitude that we are looking for in a Panther Volleyball player. Charlee worked hard to improve all season, did anything coaches asked of her and was a bright light for the team whether it was cheering on her teammates or going in to make a big block when we needed it.”
In looking ahead to 2020, Coach Keitges replied, “We will look forward to Marley McKay running the offense, with Reilly Finarty and Tara Uitermarkt leading the offense with Abby Wadle and Charlee Heffron adding strong blocking. Maggie Wilkins will lead the defense with the Sullivan Sisters – Amy and Melanie, Alyssa Vaske, Emma Dunkin and Kira Deaver providing excellent depth in the back court.”
With the cupboard far from being bare, could the Panthers actually claim a fourth straight league championship? Only time will tell on that.