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The 2021-22 season begins this week for the Prairie Home High School Lady Panthers volleyball team, and the anticipation couldn’t be higher.

This is because for the Lady Panthers, the only place to go is up.

The 2020-21 season for Prairie Home was one of disappointment. The Lady Panthers finished the season with a record of only 1-13-1, with their season ending at the hands of the New Haven High School Shamrocks in the opening round of the Class 1 District 12 Championship tournament. The Lady Panthers were defeated by the Shamrocks 3-0 in that matchup; the set scores were 25-8, 25-5 and 25-8.

Now, the Lady Panthers are back for another season and they’re determined to make it a good one. They are under the direction of first-year head coach Christin Rutledge. In addition to being the new head coach of Lady Panthers volleyball, Rutledge is also a fourth grade teacher in the Prairie Home school district.

Rutledge and her Lady Panthers have been working very hard during the summer to put the 2021 season behind them and improve both their bodies and their skills for this season.

“We are preparing for the season by working hard to improve our passing skills. We are working hard to keep a positive attitude and build our team,” Rutledge said. “A great strength to us is having six returning players. Their knowledge and support for the new players is a great benefit.”

But, according to Rutledge, the Lady Panthers will be at a disadvantage because of inexperience.

“A challenge that we face every year is that we don’t start our volleyball program until ninth grade, so our girls play against teams that have players that have played for many years,” Rutledge said.

Despite the lack of experience that her team has, Rutledge said she has a few players that have the potential to be standout players this fall season. Among those players is Prairie Home’s team captain.

“I have a few girls that I feel will be great contributors to our team. Senior Bella Vaca was voted team captain,” Rutledge said. “Bella always comes to practice with a positive attitude and tries to encourage other players. She has been open to trying some new plays this year.”

With a new coach, a new captain and a new season fast on the horizon, the new-look Prairie Home Lady Panthers volleyball team is ready for a rebound season. Their new journey begins on the road Wednesday, Sept. 1 as the Lady Panthers travel to La Monte to battle the Vikings at 6 p.m.

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