Sports High School Sports

Panthers serve up title in Barrie

By Stephen Sweet, Special to Postmedia Network

Members of the St. Peter’s Pathers senior girls volleyball team celebrate their ‘AAA’ championship over the St. Theresa's Thunder on Thursday. The Panthers won the match in three straight sets.  MARK WANZEL/PHOTO

Members of the St. Peter’s Pathers senior girls volleyball team celebrate their ‘AAA’ championship over the St. Theresa's Thunder on Thursday. The Panthers won the match in three straight sets. MARK WANZEL/PHOTO

The St. Peter’s Panthers were making the most of their opportunities.

Facing the St. Theresa’s Thunder in the Catholic School Athletics of Simcoe County senior girls ‘AAA’ volleyball finals, the Panthers were pounding the ball into the other half with regularity.

In the end, the Panthers won the title in straight sets, defeating St. Theresa’s 25-20, 25-11, 25-16.

“Obviously, getting our serves in and our coverage was important,” said Panthers middle Haley Adair. “(We were) getting those hits in and really bringing it.”

This contest was a rematch of the one played a week and a half ago in Midland, where St. Peter’s squeaked out a five-set victory.

“Last game, we were missing a few players, so it affected how we played,” said Panthers right-side hitter Domenica Di Francesco. “We had better coverage today and we brought it.”

Things got close in the opening set when St. Theresa’s went on a late run, before the Panthers would take care of business.

“I think we finally (bore) down,” Di Francesco said. “In the first set, we got a little cocky, but then we just realized that we couldn’t let them back into it and we wanted to win this game in a do-or-die scenario.”

As the second set progressed, one big part of the game tilted in the Panthers favour.

Adair started things off with a pair of aces, and by the time she came up to serve at 13-9, the Grade 11 student went on a run of six unreturned balls out of seven, including five in a row, to put St. Peter’s in the driver’s seat.

“I don’t know what happened,” Adair said. “Once you get on a roll, it just keeps coming easily and it helps you build confidence.

“You just want to keep going and it really stacks up the score.”

By the time things were done, St. Peter’s led by 10 and once it got serve back, it continued on a strong run, scoring 12 of the final 14 points in the set.

“It’s a big factor in the game,” Di Francesco said. “Serving is huge.

“If you miss your serve, it’s a whole point gone, but getting them in and getting those points makes or breaks the game.”

40% of the Panthers points in the second set alone came directly off of serves that were not returned back onto their half.

When a team is able to pick up 10 points without even having to defend again, it gives them a significant advantage.

“It does a lot for us,” Di Francesco said. “Once we get the serves going, the energy gets up and we feel like we can win.

“We can get ahead and it gets up the morale of the team.”

Even without the services of powerful left-side hitter Breanna Lund in the third set, the Panthers did not miss a beat.

St. Theresa’s pulled within a pair thanks to some timely hitting by Meghan Gay, but at 9-7, the Panthers were able to rely on what had helped them all game.

Ally Morris stepped up with four quick serves to build a sizeable lead that the Panthers would carry the rest of the way.

“(Getting points that way) is a huge part,” Adair said. “Once you start getting your confidence, you just keep going and it’s hard to stop.”

The victory will see the Panthers advance to the Georgian Bay Secondary School Association championships next week.

“It’s a great time (playing with this team),” Adair said. “Definitely the best team ever.

“We’re all super close and we have a great time, win or lose.”

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