Published on September 07, 2022 at 12:36 p.m.
He almost ran away.
One game away from victory and holding a sizable lead in the eventual clincher, the Panther Valley volleyball team seemed assured of a celebration against rival Marian.
The Panthers danced to their own drum beat during this Schuylkill Girls Volleyball Division 3 game on Tuesday night.
Panther Valley had won two of the first three games and led 20-6 in Game 4.
But strange things tend to happen in the sport, and for a short time it looked like this might be one of those cases as the fillies bravely rallied together.
The Panthers, however, rallied just in time to wrap up a 25-20, 16-25, 25-22, 25-22 win.
“That last game, we were a little bit comfortable,” said Panther Valley coach Emilie Baker, who took advantage of two timeouts to try to calm Marian’s momentum. “The players said to me ‘oh, we were so early.’ But Marian is the kind of team that will fight until the end, and I just told our girls that we had to do the same.
The Panthers were pure perfection – or almost – at the start of Game 4 as they jumped ahead 11-2. The lead grew to 20-6, then to 22-7.
But by then the seemingly plummeting fillies were about to turn the tide. They chained a nine-straight-point rally with Megan Reaman on serve, and before the Panthers knew it, the game and the game were up in the air.
That’s when great teams and great players come in, and that’s exactly what Panther Valley did.
With the Fillies just a few points away from forcing a decisive fifth game, the Panthers regrouped and closed the match.
“It was an absolutely thrilling game to watch,” coach Marian Maria Serina said. “I’m not happy with the result or the deficit we ended up in in Game 4, but it was a phenomenal run from our girls to get back there, and I’m proud of how we never gave up. “
The Panthers won the opener by slowly building momentum. They took a 14-11, 20-17 lead, before Natalie Vermillion finally finished the 25-20 victory with the last points from the service line.
Marian turned the tables in Game 2. Holding a slight 15-14 lead, Fillies used three aces from Jenna Goff to take control and pull away for a 25-16 win.
The crucial third game saw the teams tied at 20-20 and 22-22 before the Panthers cruised to victory 25-22 behind huge service points from Maddison Maynard and Riley McArdle.
This set the stage for the wild and furious final match.
“Luckily we had the momentum early in Game 4 and had enough cushion to withstand Marian’s rally,” Baker said. “We hung on and found a way to get the win.”
LOUD AND LOUD… The gymnasium was almost packed as both teams had huge fans. The din was sometimes deafening.
BY THE NUMBERS … For Panther Valley, Vermillion had two aces, 10 kills, six digs; McArdle had six aces, nine kills and seven digs, and Orsulak had five aces, five kills and 11 digs. Marian was led by Julia Meiss with 26 assists and seven digs; Megan Paisley with 15 kills, 15 digs and three aces; Fatikha Tikhtova with eight wins; and Abby Kluck and Reaman with 13 digs apiece.
COMING BIG … Baker highlighted clutch performances from Emma Dacey, Maynard and rookie Morgan Orsulak in support of stat leaders McArdle and Vermilion.
JV… Marian got a slice of the pie by winning a thriller in the opener, 2-1.
Panther Valley’s Morgan Orsulak (right) sets the ball up for teammate Maddison Maynard (17) while Marian’s Julia Meiss (5) and Gianna Griguoli (2) wait to defend. RON GOWER/TIMES NEWS SPECIAL