The Panther Valley girls' volleyball team entered the opening round of the District 11 Class AA playoffs already knowing what it had to do in order to succeed.
The only thing that stood in its way from moving on was a familiar foe in Schuylkill League counterpart Blue Mountain.
It was a bit more comforting already knowing what the Eagles were all about, especially scoring a regular season victory over them. Senior middle hitter Deanna Focht knew the Lady Panthers had to take this playoff game seriously regardless of any prior meeting, however.
"We knew we had to come out strong because Blue Mountain is a tough team," Focht said. "We were ready for them because we had already played them during the regular season. We knew we just had to step it up regardless of any regular season victory we scored against them."
The Panthers were able to accomplish what they set out for in the first place, going on to score a 25-20, 25-14, 25-17 victory over the Eagles.
Panther Valley head coach Nancy Filer watched her players put any worries of elimination behind them by advancing on to the semifinal round to take on the tourney's No. 1 seed Bethlehem Catholic tonight at 7 o'clock at Parkland Area High School.
"They knew they had to bring it tonight," she stressed. "They knew they had to bring it in order to get things done.They simply wanted this win in the worst way."
Not having a chance to practice at all to prepare for last night's game showed early as the Panthers started off slow in the first game.
Some unforced errors on the attack and the serve pushed it to a bit of a see-saw match. There were five different lead changes before PV tied the first game for the fourth time at 15-15 and then rattled off 10 of the next 15 points in its favor to take the first game.
It probably wasn't the way the Panthers planned to see the first game (20-15) pan out, but the plot took a different twist in their way.
"Having off the weekend didn't help matters," Filer said. "They just needed to get adjusted, but they wanted it and they went out and got it."
The second game saw the Panthers and Eagles exchange two different lead changes in the early going, but that was before PV seniors Focht, Amy Yusella, Chrissy Micholik and Stephanie Kachelries attacked the net with avengence.
They made their presence know at the net against the Eagles in the final two games.
After each of them fired plenty of kills over the net, it soon prevented any further ties and the Panthers went on to build a second game best 13-point lead (21-8).
Kachelries and Focht put on the finishing touches to the second game with several more kills, which produced a 25-14 win for the hosts.
While the third game saw four ties, it was then and there where Yusella, Kachelries and Focht put a damper on Blue Mountain's hopes to move on.
Yusella ripped off six of her match-high 13 kills and Focht recorded four of her 12 kills. Micholik scored three of her seven kills on the night, including the one that ended the game with a 25-17 score in the third game.
"We started off slow in the first game with a couple of service errors and everything," said Yusella, who finished with 14 service points, 13 kills, eight digs, three blocks and three assists. "But in the second game we knew we had to simply bring it. So our hits had to be on and they were.
"The third game we just wanted to go out with a bang. We knew we had to bring it. So, we brought it."
With no room for practice between their district opening victory and tonight's semifinal matchup, Filer stated her seniors - Kachelries, Micholik, Focht, Yusella, Krista Paul and Jacinda Ruzicka - know how to mentally prepare themselves for what's to come.
"I think the seniors mentally prepare themselves, Filer said. "They want to be here. They want something different. They keep looking at these banners here in the gymnasium and they just want to remain here competing in the district playoffs."