Panther Valley captures fourth straight D-11 volleyball title
Panther Valley’s Olivia Dacey (11) slams home a winner against Notre Dame. For a video and photo gallery go to www/tnonline.com. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS
When you’re the best and the defending champs, you’re going to get everyone’s best effort.
That was the case for Panther Valley as it went for its four straight District 11 2A championship on Tuesday night against Notre Dame of Green Pond.
With a target on their backs, the Panthers were able to survive yet again, fighting off a late Crusaders run to complete their four-peat with a 25-12, 25-15, 21-25, 25-20 victory.
“I think one of the keys to our win was our strong start; we really came out blazing with a lot of energy and that showed,” said PV head coach Emilie Baker. “But sometimes we tend to lay back if we go up early, and in district championships you can’t do that against a good team like Notre Dame. It took us a set to get back on track, but in the fourth, especially late you could see that competitive edge we have come out.”
Baker was correct as the Panthers did come out hot, quickly getting out to a 2-0 lead. Game 1 was a dominating 25-12 effort, with PV taking over early on. Notre Dame was able to battle to a nine-point tie, but the Panthers (20-2) would then go on a 16-3 run led by a strong offensive effort from the front line. Jenna Dubosky had five kills and Olivia Dacey had four to set the tone in the first game, but Erika Dubosky was the tone-setter and finisher in the set. In the last eight points scored by Panther Valley, she came through with three kills and three blocks.
Game 2 was much of the same, with PV jumping out to a 21-8 lead. However, that’s when Notre Dame started to show some fight, going on a nice run to get within 21-14 before the Panthers got back on track to come away with a 25-15 game two win.
The third game is when it got interesting. After the two teams battled back and forth for most of the set, it looked as if PV was in the drivers seat late, up two (17-15), but the Crusaders did not want to go home without a fight. Notre Dame went on a ferocious run to take a three-point lead (20-17) and then even after the Panthers battled back to tie it back up (20-20) the Crusaders stole the momentum back with three blocks in the last six points to get right back in it with a 25-21 game three victory.
“It took us a couple sets to really settle in. In those last two sets we played hard, we played with more intensity and we played more together,” said Crusaders head coach Paul Abi-Daher. “The slow start certainly hurt us at the end. Credit to them, they have very good hitters, good defense, they’re really solid everywhere, but we’re going to get back after it. We’re a young team and hopefully we can get right back here next season.”
Notre Dame continued to battle, giving PV its best shot yet again in the fourth. This time it was the Crusaders that held a late advantage (17-15), but as Baker noted that’s when her the team turned up its competitive spirit. With the score tied at 19 all, the Panthers went into championship mode, going on a 6-1 run to clinch their fourth consecutive title. Three kills from Jenna Dubosky during that stretch, along with a big kill from Natalie White that was the game-ender propelled PV to its fourth straight gold medal.
“They had all the momentum going their way that’s for sure, but our coach depends on us to play big in big-time moments,” said Jenna Dubosky. “At the end of the fourth game when we tied it up late and the energy in the gym shifted our way, you could see us hit that other gear. We were able to all play together and finish out; it feels great.”
LEADERS ... Jenna Dubosky led the way with 21 kills and 21 assists. Erika Dubosky came through with 18 kills, seven aces and five blocks, Olivia Dacey added nine kills and Alexis Cooper helped out defensively with seven digs.
NEXT UP ... The Panthers will move onto the PIAA 2A State tournament where they will face the District 12 champs on Nov. 5 at a time and site TBA.