Panthers punch ticket to state final in straight sets
— The big stage of University of Maryland’s Ritchie Coliseum is nothing new to the core of the Perryville volleyball team.
The seniors on the veteran Panthers squad have reached the state tournament each year of their varsity careers. That experience was evident Tuesday night as Perryville swept McDonough, 3-0, in the 1A State Semifinal to earn a berth in Saturday’s championship game.
“I love playing here,” senior setter Rose Porch said.
Senior middle blocker Gabby Goodnow agreed.
“I like the atmosphere,”
The Panthers defeated the North Region champs by set scores of 25-12, 25-16 and 25-20.
Perryville took the first game with relative ease. It broke a 7-7 tie in the first set with five unanswered points. When the Rams finally tallied a point to stop the run, the Panthers scored four more unanswered, the final three of which came from two kills and a block by Teri Wennersten.
Wennersten had eight kills and five blocks on the night.
“I have to give credit to Rose, my setter,” she said. “It’s all thanks to her, I couldn’t do it without her. She had some really great sets that I was just able to play off of.”
Porch recorded 30 assists and eight digs.
Perryville jumped out to a commanding 13-5 lead in the second set, but had to withstand a McDonough run that cut the advantage to a single point. Panthers coach Matt Borrelli called timeout with the score at 1513. The Rams twice cut their deficit to one, at 16-15 and again at 17-16.
“I think we just needed to make smart plays,” Goodnow said. “It wasn’t always about hitting or looking better, you just had to take the point back so you could take the lead.”
Goodnow paced Perryville with 15 kills and three blocks.
The Panthers took the final eight points of the set to win it 25-16. The run began with consecutive kills from Wennersten and culminated with an ace by junior Libero Hailey Jones.
“When other teams go on runs, sometimes you can feel a little panicked, but at the same time, we have such veteran players that they just keep their composure,” Borrelli said. “They know it just takes one play to break a run and then we can get our own momentum going from there. I think the experience that they have together has definitely paid off.”
Perryville trailed by as many as three points, 10-7, early in the third game. It tied the game at 10, but the teams traded ties and leads until the set was again knotted at 15 apiece. The Panthers took the lead for keeps
at 16-15 on a Goodnow kill before ending the match with a 4-0 run.
“I think their experience together definitely helps. Walking into University of Maryland, it can be kind of scary and intimidating,” Borrelli said. “We don’t play in big gyms like this. So to have older players that have been here year after year, that helps calm down the nerves of some of the younger players, too.”
Bea Muscella had five kills and four digs for the Panthers, Hailey Jones recorded 14 service points and 19 digs
and Brooke Reynolds added 11 service points and 13 digs.
While Perryville has a remarkable run of six straight trips to the state semifinals, it has another streak it hopes to end. The Panthers season has ended in a loss to Smithsburg in each of the past two seasons – a loss in the state final in 2014 and a semifinal defeat a season ago. Perryville will again meet its nemesis in Saturday’s 1A final.
“We’re excited that it’s them, that we get to see them for our senior year,” Wennersten said. “They’re a great team and we’re excited to play them.”
Porch and agreed.
“I definitely think this is the best chance we’ve had,” Goodnow
Porch said. “We’ve been playing with each other since we started, since freshman year. We’re connected.”
Borrelli expressed a similar confidence while showing pride and appreciation for his team’s unprecedented run.
“We’re fortunate to be back again this year … It’s not something we take for granted. We’re happy to be here and we have a really hardworking group of girls,” he said. “We’ve got one more game left, so we’re going to do our best to make the most of these next few days. Hopefully we can come out with the win on Saturday.”
Follow Sean Grogan on Twitter: @Sean_CecilWhig
Perryville senior Rose Porch, left, sets the ball toward senior Teri Wennersten, right, during the third set of the Panthers’ 3-0 sweep of McDonough Thursday in the 1A Volleyball State Semifinals at the University of Maryland.