Not want­ing the sea­son to end

Pan­thers rally from 2-1 deficit, beat La Plata in five sets

The Calvert Recorder - - Sports - By TED BLACK tblack@somd­

Af­ter drop­ping two of its first three sets against the vis­it­ing La Plata High School vol­ley­ball team on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, the Patux­ent vol­ley­ball squad had no more mar­gin for er­ror if the Pan­thers were go­ing to have any chance of un­seat­ing the War­riors as Class 2A South Re­gion cham­pi­ons.

While the first three sets had been vir­tual nail-biters, Patux­ent com­pletely re­versed the course of the 2A South Sec­tion II fi­nal match by dom­i­nat­ing the early por- tions of both the fourth and fifth sets.

Con­sid­er­ing the Pan­thers had never led by more than four points in any of the first three sets, their 15-4 lead in the fourth and 8-2 ad­van­tage to start the de­cid­ing set were sur­pris­ingly de­ci­sive and pro­pelled the hosts to the re­gion fi­nal, pre­vail­ing in five sets by scores of 23-25, 25-23, 2225, 25-13 and 15-12.

“Re­ally the main dif­fer­ence was play­ing with more en­ergy,” Patux­ent

Patux­ent had not faced much in the way of ad­ver­sity. But at the half on Wed­nes­day, the Pan­thers were tied at 1 with a Pat­ter­son Mill team that had dom­i­nated play for much of the first 30 min­utes.

The Pan­thers came out of the half with a re­newed fo­cus and scored twice in the sec­ond half, first on Mack Dinopou­los’ sec­ond goal of the game and later on an in­sur­ance marker from Ri­ley Eells to gut out a 3-1 vic­tory.

The win earned Patux­ent (15-0 over­all) a date with South Car­roll of Car­roll County in the 1A state cham­pi­onship game at 4 p.m. Satur­day at Wash­ing­ton Col­lege in Ch­ester­town.

“I think the big­gest point was we can’t let any mis­takes we make or nerves af­fect our play,” Dinopou­los said of the Pan­thers’ half­time chat. “One of the big­gest things we said is, ‘We have to be­lieve we can win.’ Our whole thing is be­lieve. On ev­ery­thing we have it says be­lieve. That’s the main point. We had to be­lieve we could win or else we’re not go­ing to win. ... I think that’s how we went in [to the sec­ond half]. We went in con­fi­dent which is what al­lowed us to score twice in the sec­ond half.”

The Pan­thers’ group of se­niors has en­joyed un­prece­dented suc­cess within the pro­gram, win­ning four re­gional cham­pi­onships, as well as the pro­gram’s first state ti­tle, and now has earned a trip to the state fi­nal for the third time in four sea­sons. The ex­pe­ri­ence those play­ers can draw from made for an easy half­time talk.

“Lis­ten­ing to them at half­time, I didn’t even need to be there,” Patux­ent head coach Lynn Pow­ell said. “They were talk­ing about every sin­gle thing I would have told them. The girls on the bench were giv­ing them ad­vice and dif­fer­ent num­bers that were open, which is amaz­ing. That’s a whole team ef­fort, on the bench, on the field, ev­ery­one. It’s pretty awe­some.”

Patux­ent (15-0) had opened the scor­ing on Dinopou­los’ first goal less than three min­utes into the game. But fol­low­ing the goal, Pat­ter­son Mill (9-8) started to take over, mount­ing pressure on the Pan­thers’ goal that they are not ac­cus­tomed to see­ing. The Huskies then knot­ted the score on a goal by Caroline Michaels with 22 min­utes 16 sec­onds re­main­ing in the half.

Pat­ter­son Mill main­tained its in­ten­sity, but Patux­ent’s LaSalle Univer­sity-bound goalie Chloe South was up to every chal­lenge there­after, do­ing her part to keep the score tied at 1.

“At first we went back on our heels a lot, which led to them get­ting down fur­ther on goal,” South said. “As soon as the sec­ond half picked up, we were go­ing to the ball, stepping in front of them, get­ting the ball and it even­tu­ally led us to two more goals which led us to the win.”

With the op­por­tu­nity to play for back-to-back state ti­tles hang­ing in the bal­ance, Patux­ent re­grouped at the half.

Dinopou­los fi­nally put the team in front to stay when she banged home a long shot with 21:32 re­main­ing, that com­ing off the Pan­thers’ only penalty cor­ner of the game. Then Eells was able to get an­other across the line with 8:46 to play, capping a pe­riod of sus­tained Patux­ent pressure to fi­nally pro­vide the de­fend­ing cham­pion with some breath­ing room.

“At half­time we talked about the fact that you can’t hang back,” Pow­ell said. “This is it. You have a half an hour to give to your team and to the school and that sac­ri­fice is enough. They started go­ing to the ball, talk­ing to each other and things started click­ing.”

Pow­ell noted the speed Pat­ter­son Mill pos­sessed. For­tu­nately enough, this year’s Pan­thers were a quick enough unit to hang with the Huskies. And while its op­por­tu­ni­ties were not nec­es­sar­ily plen- ti­ful, Patux­ent cap­i­tal­ized on what it did cre­ate.

“We weren’t in the cir­cle all that much, but when we were in there it was pretty quality,” Pow­ell said. “Our fresh­men Abby [Al­der­man] and Ri­ley con­trolled quite a bit up top. This is prob­a­bly the fastest team I’ve ever coached, and that was the fastest team I’ve ever played. I’m glad we had some speed.”

Al­ready re­spon­si­ble for the his­tory the field hockey team has cre­ated over the past few years, Dinopou­los and her fel­low se­niors have one more bit of busi­ness to at­tend to on Satur­day af­ter­noon.

“I’m very ex­cited,” she said. “I think it would be amaz­ing to go back-to­back. That’s never been done in Patux­ent his­tory and I’d love to walk out my se­nior year do­ing that.”

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