VARNA - Henry advanced to the Midland 1A Regional semifinals by defeating Putnam County 25-12, 25-18, but then fell to top seed Flanagan-Cornell 25-14, 25-17 to end its 2009 volleyball season.

In game one of the night, Henry and Abbey Steele chased the Lady Panthers from one end of the court to the other with big shot after big shot.

"My goodness, Abbey Steele was a ton in the match against Putnam County," Henry assistant coach Demi Salazar said. "She was amazing the way she attacked (Wednesday)."

Steele's constant pressure along with some errors from the Lady Panthers allowed the Lady Mallards to jump out to a commanding 17-3 lead in game one.

Lauren Cain and Makenzie Bogner each picked up a kill late that gave the Lady Mallards a 20-6 cushion, but the Lady Panthers were not going to go away quietly.

Alyssa Watson was a big part of the Lady Panthers' comeback attempt, firing a kill down the line, but it was a little too late in game one for Putnam County as it fell, 25-12.

The strong end to game one carried over into game two for Putnam County as the Lady Panthers jumped out to a 4-0 lead early on with the help of two service aces from Christine Mattern.

"I was really pleased with how the girls finished game one on a high note and then started off the second game," Putnam County head coach Debbie Shevokas said. "You could see how much improvement they had made from the start of the season to final game (Wednesday). They were playing well all-around, and I was very happy with that effort."

The Lady Panthers were much sharper in game two, and after an Allie Miller block, the Putnam County lead grew to 12-8.

Henry looked a little flustered at the point of the game, but they quickly went on a run that would send the Lady Panthers home, ending their volleyball season.

Cain got things rolling with a kill that was followed just moments later by two back-to-back kills from Steele, who cut the Lady Panthers' lead to 16-14.

"We played Roanoke-Benson last Saturday and were down 12-8 in game three and we were only playing to 15," Salazar said. "We came back and won that game, and I told the girls, ‘We need that effort again here (Wednesday),' and they came through. Lori Privratsky was huge, making digs and keeping things alive for us."

Henry finished on a 15-3 run that resulted in a 25-18 victory for the Lady Mallards and a date minutes later with Flanagan-Cornell.

Steele led Henry with 11 kills and two aces against PC, while Privratsky added eight digs and Jenny Briner totaled six digs.

The Lady Falcons wasted no time introducing themselves to the Lady Mallards with big hitter after big hitter.

After a pair of big kills from senior Devyn Woodburn, the Lady Falcons held a 9-4 lead. Jenny Briner looked to get her Henry teammates back into the opening game as she landed an ace, but it was the Lady Flacons that kept Henry off balance all night.

When Flanagan-Cornell wasn't sizing up the big kill and getting the Lady Mallards back on their heels, the Lady Falcons hit the dink shot over the net to come away with an easy 25-14 game-one victory.

The Lady Falcons picked right up where they left off in game two with a kill down the line from Woodburn followed by two errant shots from the Lady Mallards.

Steele jump-started the Lady Mallards with another big kill and took an early 4-3 lead. From that point on, the Lady Falcons began to pull away from Henry as they ended game two with a 25-17 victory to move into Saturday's regional final.

Steele led Henry with five kills and three digs while Privratsky led with five digs.

Brad Martin can be reached at 223-3200, ext. 139, or at sports@newstrib.com.

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