For the second year in a row, the Maxwell Panther volleyball team ended the season with a victory over the Chester Volcanoes to claim the Northern Section Division VII championship.
Yet, unlike a season ago, when Maxwell rather easily defeated the Volcanoes, this time around Chester took the match to four sets before the reigning champion Panthers emerged with the 21-25, 25-19, 27-25, 25-10 win.
Playing last Saturday at Foothill High School in Palo Cedro, it was a slow start for Maxwell, who, battling nerves, found itself in a hole early on, but fought back behind Kennidy Moss at the service line to tie the set at 17.
Nonetheless, for the remainder of the set the two teams traded errors, and in the end out-of-system play saw the Panthers fall, something that few had expected.
Still, Maxwell regrouped in the second set, and while still not playing their best volleyball, surged ahead to triumph, although Chester held them off through four set points.
Momentum shifted the Panthers’ way for good in third, however, as Jocelyn Lazarus closed out the set with a pair of aces.
It was enough to break the scrappy Volcanoes’ spirit, as the final set turned into a rout.
Lazarus, one of the squad’s three seniors, turned in one of her best all-around efforts, posting a team high seven kills to go along with four digs.
But credit goes to the Panthers’ entire back row, which, in addition to Lazarus, included Moss and libero Bailee Haywood.
Moss tallied eight digs, while Haywood made a team-high 15 digs and fostered a back row attack that helped keep Chester off balance.
After the match, Maxwell head coach Ashley Krug praised the trio in the back row saying, “They were the difference today. They did a good job moving their feet and picking up balls.”
On the attack for the Panthers, Fatima Cano finished with five kills, while Emma Hendrix and Ryann Dennis added four apiece.
Ending the 2022 season with a 23-7 overall record, the future looks bright for the Panthers who should return juniors Haywood, Hendrix, Moss, Dennis, Ava Barrett, and Shelby Dunlap, along with Cano, who is just a sophomore.■