Pool-Play Perfection

Panama One Win Away From State Title, Undefeated Season

Panama’s Tara Sweeney prepares to hit a spike. Photo by Deb Bailey

GLENS FALLS — It’s no secret that Panama leans on each member of its roster for consistent contributions.

The fact that every one of the Lady Panthers can be counted on to produce on the hardwood has certainly made them tough to contain or stop, as they entered Saturday’s semifinal pool play at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Volleyball Championships with an unblemished overall record.

And it’s that supreme balance that now has the Lady Panthers on the cusp of a state title.

All in all, Panama stormed its way through pool play in Class D at the Glens Falls Civic Center, compiling a flawless 6-0 record and posting wins over Section IX’s Tuxedo (25-18 and 25-9), Section II’s Argyle (25-16 and 25-16) and Section III’s Bishop Ludden (25-17 and 25-21).

That stellar play also allowed the Lady Panthers to lock up a spot in today’s Class D championship, which is set to begin at noon.

Panama’s Alexys Marsh puts down a spike during Saturday’s NYSPHSAA Class D pool-play action at the Glens Falls Civic Center. Photo by Deb Bailey

“When the going gets tough, instead of getting mad at each other or pointing fingers, they rally together,” Panama coach Tammy Hosier said of her talented group of student-athletes. “And that’s what makes them a great team. They are a team in the true sense.”

Panama’s first matchup of pool play came bright and early following the opening ceremonies against Tuxedo. After a relatively close first game where the Lady Panthers prevailed 25-18, the Tornadoes were no match for Panama in the second game, falling 25-9.

Madalyn Bowen collected seven digs, six kills and three points against Tuxedo. In addition, Elle Angeletti (five points, five aces), Natalie Angeletti (five kills, six digs, nine points and one ace), Alexys Marsh (five kills, one block), Tara Sweeney (three kills, one dig, six points), Gillian Figueroa (three kills, two blocks), Quinn Payne (21 assists, two digs, one kill, four points and one ace) and Maci Johnson (five digs, two points, once ace) all played integral roles.

Those first two victories in Hosier’s eyes were imperative. They alleviated some of the nerves that were prevalent for her girls prior to their first-ever appearance at the state championships.

“It was big,” Hosier stressed. “That was our big thing, to start strong. … That win was huge. Getting the first two wins was even bigger because that kind of set the tone for the day and had them thinking really positive.”

The Lady Panthers’ Madalyn Bowen goes up for a spike. Photo by Deb Bailey

Next up for Panama was Argyle. The Scots, just as Tuxedo tried to do, hung with Panama, but the Lady Panthers found their rhythm, closing the first game on a huge run and opening the second game on a 7-0 run en route to two 25-16 wins.

Payne tallied 22 assists, six digs, two kills, nine points and three aces to help Panama take down Argyle. Also, Sweeney had six digs, one assist, two kills, 10 points and three aces; Bowen added 11 digs, one assist, nine kills, one point and one ace; Natalie Angeletti contributed three digs, one assist and eight kills; Johnson compiled three digs, four points and three aces; Figueroa had one dig, one kill and two blocks; Marsh came through with five kills; and Elle Angeletti had one dig, six points and three aces.

“We all know how to play together,” said Payne, a junior setter. “And we all know our roles on the team and we do them very well. We all just think of each other as family.”

Finally, Panama’s last action of pool play came against the Gaelic Knights of Bishop Ludden, which was arguably the toughest bout of the day for the Lady Panthers. The Gaelic Knights tested Panama, but again, the Lady Panthers found a way to come away with two more wins, 25-17 and 25-21, to close the day at 6-0.

Sweeney, Panama’s lone senior, had eight digs, one assist, two kills, nine points and one ace against Bishop Ludden. Johnson (seven digs, seven points, three aces), Marsh (three kills, three blocks), Natalie Angeletti (three digs, eight kills, one block, three aces), Payne (six digs, 19 assists, two kills, four points, one ace) and Bowen (13 digs, nine kills, four points) helped the Lady Panthers end pool play still undefeated.

Panama’s Maci Johnson hits a serve. Photo by Deb Bailey

“Everyone is a big part of our whole team,” Bowen, a sophomore hitter, explained. “We were down that last game (against Bishop Ludden), but we always (seem to) find a way to pull ourselves together and win.”

Awaiting Panama in the championship tilt will be Argyle, which compiled an overall record of 4-2 in pool play, with both losses coming courtesy of the Lady Panthers.

Danielle Sill (229 kills, 59 aces, 186 digs), Alicen Simpson (140 kills, 33 aces, 34 total blocks), Alaina Keating (94 kills, 36 total blocks) and Jessie Wilson (476 assists) had been some of the statistical leaders for the Scots heading into Saturday’s action.

“They were very scrappy,” Hosier said of the challenges Argyle may present. “We just have to play our game and try to find those open spots and keep playing. … It’s about us. If we play our game, everybody plays their role, we’ll be state champions.

“Our ultimate goal was to get that blue (sectional patch),” Hosier added. “Then we got that blue patch and we just kind of kept building. When we left Panama on Friday, it’s like, ‘Hey, how cool would it be to come back undefeated and have that state championship?’ That’s the dream right now.”

The Lady Panthers’ Elle Angeletti hits a serve. Photo by Deb Bailey

Pictured from left, Panama’s Natalie Angeletti, Tara Sweeney, Madalyn Bowen, Maci Johnson and Gillian Figueroa celebrate the Lady Panthers’ victory over Bishop Ludden in the final match of pool play Saturday at the NYSPHSAA Class D volleyball championships at the Glens Falls Civic Center. Photo by Deb Bailey

Panama's Natalie Angeletti hits a serve. Photo by Deb Bailey