STONE RIDGE – Panas volleyball matches bear a resemblance to a Mike Tyson boxing match during his prime: dominant, meticulous, and often over so quickly that the price of admission hardly seems worth it.
Seeing as how the majority of Panas fans who made the trip from Cortlandt Manor to SUNY Ulster on Wednesday were direct relatives of the players, there were no complaints in the stands following a swift 25-16, 25-16, 25-20 victory in the Class A state regional semifinals.
Panas representatives said that Wednesday’s match was a perfect example of how it can fall into a dangerous habit of coasting during play. The Panthers had a rare off night at the serve, and fell into an early hole in the third set after giving Cornwall a majority of its points off various errors.
“We need to make sure that we really push ourselves because we underestimate teams sometimes, and we need to make sure we never do that,” Panas junior Demi Spanos said. “I think when we’re really loud and when we have a big crowd, that pushes us to finish the game fast and make it fun.”
COLUMN: Court jesters keep team morale high
VOLLEYBALL: Panas dominates in Class A final, repeats as champs
VOLLEYBALL: Panas puts family first before defending tournament title
Spanos had a remarkable .600 hitting percentage Wednesday, giving Panthers head coach Joe Felipe a “hot hand” to feed throughout the match. Panas is buoyed by junior Yvette Burcescu, but performances like Spanos’ against Cornwall show just how lethal the Panthers can be on the attack.
“Demi has been stepping up all year,” Felipe said. “For us, we can really ride the hot hand and it’s not between two hitters, it’s between five hitters.”
Burcescu, Spanos, sophomore standout Jenn Braun, junior all-section returnee Lauren Feeley, and senior Melissa Lussier make up arguably the most balanced attack in the state. Felipe gave special praise to Lussier, noting that her blocking ability and on-court leadership is invaluable when she plays out of the middle.
The Panthers (18-0) will take on Section 4 champion Vestal in the regional final Sunday at SUNY Oneonta at 2:30 p.m. Felipe had a slight grin on his face when asked about the Golden Bears.
“I know they won their section, I know that the last time I played Vestal I went down 2-0 and had to win three in a row to get to the state final four,” he said, recalling the 2012 regional final.
The last rendezvous may have gone the distance, but Panas will undoubtedly be looking for a first-round knockout this time around.