GLENS FALLS — Walter Panas’ first state championship in any sport was in sight, but Kings Park made the Panthers work for it. The Kingsmen came close to forcing a fourth set in the Class A final of the State Volleyball Tournament
Kings Park had trailed the whole match, but tied it up and then took a 23-21 lead on Erika Benson’s block and Lauren Kloos’ kill. A Kingsman error and block from Panas outside hitter Jenn Braun tied it ar 23. Julianna Bottarini served an ace, Braun made a kill and Panas held the school’s first-ever state plaque.
“I’m kind of happy it was (an emotional ending) because the last few regional wins, we won and just shook hands and walked out,” coach Joe Felipe said. “The end made it exactly what I wanted it to be.”
It’s easy to say that after the 25-12, 25-17, 25-23 win, but even when Kings Park took the lead, Felipe knew his team would win, it was just a matter of when.
Going out on top
After 28 seasons, 13 state championships and 995 wins, Stephen Pierce is ready to hang up his whistle. The Eden coach is retiring and he’s going out on top as the Raiders gave him one more title on Sunday.
Eden not only swept Pawling (25-10, 25-11, 25-10) in the Class C final, but gave up only 89 points in the tournament. That’s an average of about 10 points a set in nine sets.
“I’m so thankful to have him as a coach and that he stayed through my senior year,” said Sam Burgio, who is graduating in January to enroll early at University of Maryland as a defensive specialist. “Ending with a win, you can’t get much better than that.”
Burgio, who made 17 kills and served four aces in the final, credited the Raiders’ serving with limiting opponents’ points. They do a drill that involves serving, then running around the court to the other side and then serving again. It’s not a favorite, but it’s effective.
Penfield a champ
It took an extra four points, but once Penfield won the second set, it turned the tides on Connetquot in the Class AA final.
That win tied the match at one-set apiece and set the Patriots up nicely. They ran away with the third and then held off the T-Birds for the 20-25, 27-25, 25-12, 25-20 win.
Setter Alea Steigerwald stood out for her setting and serving and middle hitter Sarah Green impressed in the front row as Penfield won its first state title since 2011.
Connetquot has seven juniors, so the team is well-positioned to make a return next year.
With two Class B championships in the previous three years, Owego came into the tournament with a reputation. Honeoye Falls-Lima was the school people had to double-check to say it right ... until they started playing.
HFL made a splash in semifinal pool play, losing only one set to Owego on the way to its first finals appearance. The Cougars lost the first set 25-13 to Owego, then came back with a 25-1 win.
From there, the Cougars and Indians traded sets, all the way through five.
In the end though, HFL made sure people will know its name with a 3-2 win (13-25, 25-16, 22-25, 25-20).