Panther Vy. breezes past Spartans
For a young team, confidence is always key.
Panther Valley, which boasts numerous underclassmen in its starting lineup, was able to gain confidence early in its District 11 2A quarterfinal matchup with North Schuylkill on Tuesday.
The Panthers dominated Game 1, and never looked back on their way to a 25-7, 25-17, 25-18 victory.
“With all of the young players we play and have on our team, playoff experience is so important for us. And I’ve talked about this before, but when we play with confidence, you can definitely see the difference in our overall play,” said Panther Valley head coach Emilie Baker. “Coming in, we had defeated North Schuylkill in three games twice this season, so I really emphasized that this is the playoffs now, and you can’t think those games are going to produce the same results.
“We stressed getting out to a good start. The girls really came together and got that message and put together a great first set.”
In Game 1, Panther Valley (13-7) jumped out to a big lead early and the Spartans never recovered, but games two and three were a bit more competitive. In fact, the Panthers held just a 14-13 advantage midway through the second set.
That’s when Panther Valley’s confidence yet again kicked in. Kills from Madison Maynard and Riley McArdle, paired with an ace from Emma Dacey, gave PV some breathing room. A few plays later, another ace from McArdle stretched the advantage to 22-16, and the Panthers were able to close out the game after a few errors on the North Schuylkill side.
“You could tell the girls were confident offensively tonight. They were really being aggressive, and playing up and looking for opportunities to score,” said Baker. “I thought defensively we played well, especially our first pass off their kill opportunities.
“We were able to pass the ball well overall and setup our hitters, which is always something you like to see for sure.”
The third game stayed tight as well, with the Panthers leading 11-10 early, but the play of Natalie Vermillion helped change that. A Vermillion kill made it a two-point game (12-10), before the freshman put together a strong 7-0 run from the service line that stretched the Panther advantage to 19-10. Vermillion also added three aces during the surge.
“We knew we needed to get out to a good start tonight, and I think we just did a great job of working together. I thought North Schuylkill came here and played with energy and they hit the ball really well, but we were locked in defensively,” said Vermillion. “It’s exciting to move on in the playoffs, and we just want to keep advancing, and we will continue to work hard toward that goal.”
LEADERS ... Vermillion led the way for the Panthers with eight kills, nine digs and five aces. McArdle added four kills, 13 digs and four aces, while Chloe Diekman added 19 digs and two aces.
MOVING ON ... The No. 3 seed Panthers will now take on No. 2 seed Allentown Central Catholic at 5 p.m. Thursday at Northwestern High School.