CARMEL, N.Y. – The Walter Panas High School varsity volleyball team found itself in an unfamiliar position Friday, trailing 2-1 and facing the conclusion of its season.
Section 9 champion Cornwall won the third game in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class A volleyball regional semifinal at Carmel High School. Panas came out of the break, knowing what it had to do.
Led by Brigitte Burcescu, Rebecca Kendra and Shaina Campbell at the net, Panas rallied to a win over Cornwall, 23-25, 25-17, 18-25, 25-8, 25-15.
Panas advances to the Class B regional final against Vestal (Section 4) at Corning East High School on Monday.
“We felt we did not play our game in the first and third games,” said Burcescu, who celebrated her 16th birthday with a match-high 29 kills. “Coach (Joe Felipe) told us that we had to fight because it was now or never. I think we were frustrated, as a team, but we came back and played with a lot of heart and played our game.”
Cornwall experienced the thunderous kills of Burcescu, Campbell and Kendra, especially in the final two games. Burcescu put together eight consecutive service points in Game 4, hiking Panas’ lead to 17-4. The Panthers rode that momentum into the decisive game.
“That just gave us more energy to feed off and so did our fans,” said Kendra, who had seven kills and nine blocks. “After that, it made us all want to win even more.”
In the decisive game, Burcescu, Kendra and Campbell, who rang up 22 kills, were unstoppable at the net.
The Panthers also received a huge boost from the serving of Lauren Perri. When Perri stepped to the service line, Panas led 7-6. Once she had concluded, the Panthers lead was 15-7.
“Lauren has been one of the strongest servers on the team this year,” Burcescu said. “We can always count on Lauren to get us an ace.”
During the run, Perri had two aces and Cornwall netted two returns. Kendra and Burcescu each had a pair of kills to complete Perri’s serving dominance. Burcescu had seven kills in the decisive game and Campbell added four.
Along with 29 kills, Burcescu added 20 digs. Victoria Fletcher collected 22 and Floriana Rraci had 18. Setter Allie Patriciello amassed 56 assists.
After the win, Panas celebrated Burcescu’s birthday with homemade cupcakes. But she said the team's victory was the best birthday present.