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North Collins wins Class D volleyball crown

The Panthers are no longer on top of the Section VI Class D volleyball mountain.

The Eagles have landed.

Powered by seniors Deanne Wilson and Makenna Williams, North Collins swept four-time defending champion Panama 25-16, 25-23, 25-20 for the program’s first overall Class D title since 1987 on Saturday afternoon at North Collins Jr.-Sr. High School.

Wilson finished with 20 kills and three aces and Williams had 30 assists to go along with three aces of her own as the Eagles led for nearly the entire day.

For the Panthers, who had reached the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Final Four in Glens Falls in each of the past four seasons, sophomore Jo Bailey had five kills, four blocks and three aces while senior Ashlyn Harvey added five blocks and 10 digs.

Although the score of Saturday’s first game was the most lopsided, it actually took North Collins longer to take the lead than in the final two games.

Panama led by as many as three at 8-5 and as late as 8-7 before Wilson ran off a string of seven straight service points, including a pair of aces, to propel her team to a 13-8 advantage.

The Panthers got as close as five at 18-13 after back-to-back points keyed by a Mandy Brink dig and a block by Bailey, but Wilson took over down the stretch. Three kills in a five-point span made it 23-16 in favor of the Eagles before Williams served out the game.

Panama’s only lead in the second game came at 3-2 before a hitting error and a long spike gave the lead to North Collins. From there, the Eagles’ lead grew to as many as eight thanks to a run that included kills by Williams and Wilson as well as an ace down the line from Williams.

The Panthers began to close the gap midway through the game as Bailey followed her own kill with an ace to make it 19-16. Four North Collins service errors down the stretch allowed Panama to get within a point at 24-23 before another infraction gave the final point to the Eagles.

Armed with a 2-0 lead, the coronation was beginning for North Collins.

The Panthers’ final lead of the afternoon was at 4-3 and the last time the teams were tied was 6-6 in the third game. The Eagles’ lead grew to as many as six on back-to-back kills by Michaela Rice to make it 17-11.

Panama held off a pair of match points late, but Williams finished the afternoon with her 30th assist and Rice’s last of eight kills began the long-awaited celebration for the Eagles.

Unique to a COVID-19 world, North Collins earned home-court advantage for the final by completing a perfect 13-0 regular season. That did not keep the Eagles from the customary fire truck parade into town for a sectional champion. Following pictures and hugs with family and friends in the gym, the Eagles boarded a bus bound for the fire hall in the middle of town before a parade back to the school.

NOTES: North Collins won a Class D-2 title in 2014 before losing the crossover match to Portville. … McKenna Rice chipped in five kills for the Eagles. … Maddie Johnson had 12 assists and five digs while Marra Hovey chipped in 12 digs and two aces for Panama.

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