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Panthers advance to title match


That’s the present mentality of the Panther Valley volleyball team. After capturing Schuylkill League gold over an undefeated Pottsville team last week, the Panthers picked up right where they left off against Schuylkill Haven in the District 11 2A semifinals on Thursday.

PV looked locked in on every facet of the game, sweeping the Hurricanes 25-7, 25-14, 25-8.

“Going in, the message was come out and be ready to play right from the start,” said Panther Valley head coach Emilie Baker. “Earlier in the season we were able to beat Schuylkill Haven, but every game is different, especially when it comes to the playoffs. You know every team is going to be playing their absolute hardest, knowing this could be their last match. But the girls came out focused and ready to go.”

PV didn’t waste any time setting the tone, getting out to a commanding 20-6 lead in the first set.

Middle hitter Morgan Orsulak got the Panthers’ offense going early coming through with four kills during that stretch. A strong offensive run by Natalie Vermillion - two aces and two kills - to end the set gave PV the 25-7 win.

“We have been really working on fine-tuning our offense and honing our craft, and the girls did a good job of swinging away and coming through with points tonight,” said Baker. “We were tough up front tonight with Morgan, and Natalie is a very smart player who is seeing the court really well right now, and that is showing. She did a very good job tonight.”

The Hurricanes put together their best set of the night battling to an 18-12 deficit late in the frame. But it was all PV from there, with Orsulak, Vermillion, Riley McArdle and Emma Dacey all coming through with kills to help the Panthers finish on a 7-2 run.

A 12-2 start from the Panthers in set three was aided by a few Schuylkill Haven miscues, along with a few aces from Orsulak and McArdle. PV eventually cruised to a 20-5 advantage. McArdle was clutch for the Panthers down the stretch in the third, coming through with three kills in PV’s last five points scored. A Maddison Maynard strike from the right side ended the third set and completed the sweep.

“I like the way we played defensively tonight as well. It’s something we’ve been working really hard on,” said Baker.

“We’re back where we wanted to be, the district finals, and it’s the same message we told them last week when we were in the Schuylkill League finals. We have to come out and give it our all. We have to give everything we got out there.”

STAT LINE … For PV, Orsulak finished with six kills, 11 assists and 12 digs and Vermillion added three aces, six kills and 11 digs. McArdle came away with nine kills.

500 CLUB … Caroline Breslin had eight digs for the Panthers and entered herself into the PV record books, earning the 500th dig of her career.

NEXT UP… No. 1 seed Panther Valley will now take on last season’s district champs in No. 2 seed Notre Dame Green Pond at Martz Hall on Tuesday at 5 p.m.

Panther Valley's Natalie Vermillion hits the ball over the net while Jolynn Ross of Schuylkill Haven attempts a block. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS