Panthers hold off Chautauqua Lake in CCAA volleyball

OBSERVER Photo by Jay Young Chautauqua Lake’s Hannah Group delivers a spike during Tuesday night’s Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association volleyball match against Panama.

PANAMA — Tuesday night’s Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association meeting between Panama and Chautauqua Lake lived up to a long tradition of competitive volleyball between the two programs. That is good news during the early part of a shortened season in which practice and playing time are at a premium.

The Panthers would pick up a pair of wins to start the day, 25-18, 25-19, before the Thunderbirds found their footing in the third frame. Breaking out to a 10-2 lead, Chautauqua Lake (2-1) would bounce back with a 25-13 win in the third, while Panama (3-0) was able to sneak away with a 25-23 win in a very competitive fourth and final set.

“Panama is obviously well coached and they are good every single year. That is something we look forward to year after year, coming here to play,” Chautauqua Lake head coach Joanne Meadows said.

For Meadows, starting the season during a pandemic has taken a toll on her traditional practice schedule, while this week has the added complication of academic spring break.

“I think the worst part for me is that it is over spring break and we are missing kids for spring break,” she said. “I’m happy with what the kids look like so far.”

Through the first two games of the night, the Thunderbirds would struggle with unforced errors while Panama opened up strong with its service game.

Sarah Harvey would have a strong start at the line for the Panthers, while Jo Bailey got going with a pair of overhand winners to give the hosts a 6-2 lead in the first.

Chautauqua Lake would counter with a winner off the tape from Brynn Engdahl, but that was followed by a pair of misses.

Panama would ride more strong hitting and a block from Bailey down the home stretch, with the Thunderbirds relinquishing the final point with a penalty.

“I think my kids went out swinging really hard, which I really appreciate, but we needed to manufacture a couple of points and that is what I told them,” Meadows said.

Meadows added: “We’re going to need to play a little bit smarter because right now we are giving up a lot of unforced errors, serving out of bounds and hitting out of bounds. I’d rather have you look for a hole in the floor and put the ball there instead of just swinging as hard as you can and hitting a ball 30 feet out of bounds.”

Panama would carry a lead for much of the second set, but with smaller margins than the first. During a key stretch Lilly Odell would hit an overhand off the outstretched arms of defenders, following that up with a short winner to make it 15-12 Panthers.

Chautauqua Lake would keep things close with an ace by Jenna Harle, but in the end more hitting errors gave Panama a two-game lead.

“I think (my team) changed that up and gained the momentum back,” Meadows said of the third game. “I think they scored four times on tips and on a hard hit. So when we keep them off-balance with our offense, I think that made a difference for us with the momentum in that third game.”

Junior Lily Woodis would lead the charge out of the gate in the third, with good work at the service line and a push winner to start things off.

Tatem Zemcik would strike a shot off the hands of defenders and Hannah Group would pick up a block as the Thunderbirds raced out to a 15-5 lead on their way to any easy victory in that frame.

“Our whole momentum and our whole energy level just went down,” Panama coach Tammy Hosier said. “We needed to pick that energy level up and start playing our game. We were letting them play their offense, and when you are playing defense it is very hard to win a game.”

It looked like Panama would be cruising all the way to the finish line after earning a 10-1 lead in the fourth, but that set would end up providing some of the closest play of the whole night.

Three straight service points, including an ace, from Maddie Johnson, would provide the early lift before Chautauqua Lake found a foothold with good serving of its own from Woodis.

Sitting in a six-point hole, Woodis would grab a tip winner that was followed by a pair of points at the service line from Engdahl.

“It is great to feel that pressure and to work through that pressure,” Hosier said of the close play. “That is what I told the girls after the game. We have a lot of lessons that we learned from this game. The third game, they didn’t really get down on each other, but they definitely got down on themselves. That doesn’t work in the game of volleyball. They luckily rebounded and came back and played together. It is good to have those situations so when you move on down later into the season you have that experience.”

Engdahl would rip a shot off the hands of a defender to bring the visitors back to even at 23-23, but Panama would ultimately get the job done with a push from Bailey and an overhand shot by Odell that was dug just wide by a Chautauqua Lake defender.

NOTES: Engdahl would finish with 10 kills, 19 digs and four aces; Jenna Waters had five kills, 31 digs and two aces; Group had six kills and 13 digs; Woodis four kills, 14 assists, six digs and an ace; while Jessica Weimer added six kills and four blocks. … Panama was led by 15 kills and six blocks from Bailey; Hovey had 16 digs; Johnson 27 assists, 12 points and eight digs; and Ashlyn Harvey 10 digs and four kills.


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