PAXTON -- Consistency is something a team needs to beat a high-quality opponent.
One day after winning the first set 32-30 in a three-set loss to Prairie Central, which improved to 12-4 with the match victory, Paxton-Buckley-Loda led 9-8 in the first set of Tuesday's match against St. Joseph-Ogden, but lost 25-20, 25-16.
With that win, SJ-O improved to 11-2, while PBL fell to 7-4 heading into a Thursday matchup against defending Sangamon Valley Conference champion Cissna Park.
"We've had two back-to-back matches where, I think, we just started out stronger, and then in set two, we drifted away a little bit," PBL head coach Lindsay Stalowy said. "That can't happen against Prairie Central, it can't happen against SJ-O, and it certainly can't happen Thursday against Cissna Park if we're trying to come away with a victory. We need to regroup and get both defense and offense working together."
After SJ-O took a 3-0 lead in game one, Addison Oyer had a kill and two blocks and Abbie Schmidt recorded an ace to help PBL take an 5-3 lead.
After the Spartans tied the game at 5-5, the Panthers reclaimed the lead at 7-5. SJ-O then went on another two-point run to tie the game before the two teams traded sideouts twice.
After the last of those sideouts tied the game at 9-9, the Spartans scored six of the next seven points to take a 15-10 lead.
After Oyer recorded a kill to make the score 15-11, SJ-O tallied six of the next eight points to extend its lead to 21-13 and Brooke Walder recorded a kill to cut PBL's deficit to 21-14.
The Panthers scored six of the next eight points to make the score 23-20 before the Spartans tallied the following two points to win game one.
In game two, after Walder recorded a kill to cut PBL's deficit to 6-5, SJ-O scored eight of the next nine points to extend its lead to 14-6 before a kill by Lexi Johnson to cut her team's deficit to 14-7.
Another 8-1 run by the Spartans extended their lead to 22-8 before Oyer recorded a kill and a block to cut PBL's deficit to 22-10.
After SJ-O sided out, an ace by Katelyn Crabb and a kill by Johnson helped cut the Panthers' deficit to 24-16 before a service error resulted in the Spartans' match-clinching point.
The back-to-back days of matches followed a contest at Clifton Central the previous Thursday and a meeting with St. Thomas More, which is undefeated so far this year after winning last year's IHSA Class 2A state championship, the Tuesday beforehand.
"The goal going into the season was to toughen up the schedule just because I foresee the talent the program has and will continue to have. We wanted to toughen up the schedule in hopes of getting some postseason success," Stalowy said. "It has been a while, and so the challenge right now is to keep the girls mentally and physically focused, even during these tough weeks."