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Panthers roll in opening round

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    Panther Valley’s Rachelle Filer tries to hit the ball past Niya Petty of Science Leadership Academy during Tuesday’s first round of the Class 2A state playoffs. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS

Published November 07. 2018 11:15AM

Schuylkill League title? Check.

District 11 championship? Check.

The Panther Valley volleyball team has celebrated two colossal achievements already this postseason.

After another dominant performance on Tuesday, the Panthers could be on their way to capturing a third.

Panther Valley opened play in the PIAA Class 2A tournament with a 25-13, 25-8, 25-14 first round victory over Science Leadership Academy. With the win, the Panthers will play Delone Catholic on Saturday at a site and time to be determined.

While winning a league and third straight district title was nice, Panther Valley head coach Nancy Filer is hoping that was just the beginning.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Filer. “These girls are excited. And you saw them play, they’re starting to gel really nice. I’m hoping it’s the beginning of many.

“They do well playing with each other. They share the ball, and they want the ball at the same time. It makes it fun. They’re fun to watch. They are fun to coach, they are fun to watch, they are fun to be around. They’re good girls.”

And the Panthers put on a show at Lehighton Area High School.

Erika Dubosky collected a team-high 14 kills to go along with three aces and six digs for Panther Valley (21-1). Jenna Dubosky added nine kills and five aces, while also dishing out 10 assists as part of a balanced effort.

“It seems like every night somebody else is coming through,” said Filer. “Erika (Dubosky) was definitely wanting that ball, and putting it away. It depends on whatever they’re doing. They’re just a nice team. I can’t say enough about them, I really can’t.

“I really think they all do their part. I think, while she’s the one smacking it down, somebody has to be passing, keeping the serve, and setting her up. Volleyball is a team sport. There’s a girl that shines once in a while. But this team shines a lot together. They have each other’s backs. I’m very proud of them.”

Dubosky was happy to share the load — and the fun.

“I think that our hitting was really good tonight,” she said. “We were just on-task with the backline, so everything worked out together.”

Sarah Zabroski recorded 16 assists, 10 service points and three digs.

The Panthers hit the ground running, shaking off ties of 4-4, 3-3 and 4-4 in each set, before pulling away to close out the match.

There was no rust since winning a district title last Tuesday. Just a team on a mission.

“My teammates weren’t,” Rachelle Filer said when asked if there were any nerves.

“I was like excited nervous, though. I love playing with these girls. I’ve been with them for so long, and I just don’t want the season to end.”

Rachelle Filer finished with six kills and 12 service points, including one ace.

The District 12 runner-up Rockets (10-3) presented an unknown for Panther Valley. But Nancy Filer wasn’t concerned with what was on the other side of the net.

“As long as your side is doing what it’s supposed to do, it is what it is,” she said.

While winning a league and third straight district title was nice, Filer is hoping that was just the beginning.

“Now we’re going to have to fight our way through the battle, and that’s what makes it fun I guess,” she said. “They want it. They’ve had goals set for I don’t know how long. They’re a goal-setting team, and they’re hungry.

“They’re still in it. They think it’s like the beginning of the season, which is nice. It’s really nice. They played nice ball today, so we’re going to stay on track, hopefully.”

NO COURT, NO PROBLEM ... That the Rockets reached the state tournament was no small feat. “I think it’s important these girls accomplished what they accomplished ... our school has no gymnasium, we practice in other school’s gyms, we practice all over the city whenever we can find gym space. And our girls made it to the state championship round, so we couldn’t be more proud of them. There’s not a senior on this team. We’ll be back,” said Science Leadership Academy principal Chris Lehmann.

STAT LINE ... Emilee Kwaak (five digs, four kills, six service points, one ace), Olivia Dacey (eight digs, four kills), Lyddia Malaska (five service points, two aces) and Alexis Cooper (five digs) also played well for the Panthers.

NOT THIS TIME … Panther Valley had lost in an opening round subregional match the past two years in the state tournament.


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