Panthers can’t close third set, fall in 1A state final
— Volleyball, even more so than other sports, is a game of momentum, and the shift of it at the end of the third set proved to be too much for Perryville to overcome.
The Panthers’ season ended Saturday the same way it has each of the past three years – with a loss to Smithsburg in the state tournament, but Saturday’s match was a far different story than the previous two.
After winning the second game to even the match at one game apiece, Perryville appeared poised to take a 2-1 lead over the Leopards when it led the third set 24-20. But Smithsburg rattled off six unanswered points to take Game 3 for themselves. The Leopards won the next set, too, to defeat the Panthers 3-1 and claim a third-straight 1A state volleyball championship.
“I think we played as well as we’ve played in years,” Perryville coach Matt Borrelli said. “I think the end of that third set when we just let them score — I think it was like six points in a row — I think that was the momentum shift that they needed and they finished out the fourth set. I think if we had finished out that third set, I think we would’ve won in four. Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way, but I’m proud of our effort tonight. I’m proud of how we played and just disappointed in how it ended.”
Though Perryville lost the opening set, 2519, it was the Panthers that carried momentum into Game 2. Perryville trailed 20-10, but cut its deficit to three, 22-19. Smithsburg scored the final three points to take the set, 25-19, but the confidence gained from the rally carried over into the next game.
“Volleyball is a game of momentum,” senior Teri Wennersten said. “We had it going into that second set and we carried on and we played really hard and we used that momentum to our advantage.”
The Panthers never trailed in the second set. Wennersten began the game with a kill and fellow senior Gabby Goodnow gave Per-
ryville the lead for good at 3-2 with a block. It cruised from there to a 25-13 Game 2 win. Then came the third set. The Panthers turned a 19-all tie into the 24-20 advantage and were a single point away from taking a 2-1 match lead. The ensuing 6-0 was their backbreaker.
“I think we were right there with them,” Goodnow said. “I just think it was maybe a serve or a couple serve receive errors that killed us, but overall I think that we all played well.”
The Leopards took the lead for good at 6-5 in the next set. They won it 25-20 to once again defend their state title.
In the previous two years, Perryville failed to win a set against Smithsburg. The Panthers were a point away from winning two Saturday.
“It’s all about knowing you can do it … You’ve got to believe in yourself,” Goodnow said. “Coming in, I was ready to play. I was like ‘We can definitely win.’”
Senior setter Rose Porch agreed with Goodnow.
“Everyone knew we had it in us,” she said. “We knew it was going to be a fight, but we knew we could do it.”
Borrelli said the Panthers had not reached 20 points in a single set against Smithsburg in the previous three meetings.
“I couldn’t be prouder or happier to coach a group of players,” he said. “We could’ve won. That’s what hurts the most.”
Follow Sean Grogan on Twitter: @Sean_CecilWhig
Perryville senior Rose Porch tips the ball during the Panthers’ 3-1 loss to Smithsburg in the 1A state volleyball final Saturday in College Park.