- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
COLLEGE PARK – Pax Nation erupted at the University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum on Saturday as the Patuxent Panthers volleyball team captured the 2A state championship.
Patuxent defeated the Falcons from Poolesville of Montgomery County in five sets by scores of 25-21, 25-22, 20-25, 24-26 and 15-13, giving Poolesville its first loss of the season.
It's the second state title for Patuxent in 11 years.
Patuxent head coach Kevin Keller said he was so proud of his team.
“It went back and forth. We were hoping to close it out. We didn't close it out [in three sets],” Keller said. “The character of both teams is amazing, absolutely amazing. I can't wait to actually go down and actually watch the film on this game because it was back and forth. Everyone wanted this match.”
Patuxent (16-3 overall) won the first two sets, while Poolesville (17-1) dug back to win the third and fourth sets. The state championship came down to the final set.
Patuxent captain Sarah Nepini won the coin toss and elected to serve.
The final set was tied seven times, but it was setter Nepini and senior middle hitter Madison Scott who teamed up for a kill on Poolesville's senior libero Sarah Kenneweg that gave the Panthers momentum.
The Panthers went on a three-point run that included a timely kill from senior outside hitter Chanel Underwood that left Poolesville middle blocker Caroline Leng and outside hitter Jessie Maloney flat-footed for match point at 14-12.
Leng came back with a block at the net on Scott's return, but Poolesville setter Allyson Convers struggled at the net. As the ball fell to the floor, Patuxent celebrated and its crowd went wild chanting, “Pax Nation.”
Underwood led the Panthers in kills with 19, while Scott finished with 17. Nepini finished the match with 46 assists and senior right-side hitter Megan Wentz led in digs with 26.
“This is how you end it [the season]. This is the best place to end it, with a state championship,” Underwood said. “I feel so accomplished. I know this team feels so accomplished.”
Scott said her senior year has been unforgettable.
“It's been since August since we've said we wanted this,” Scott said, “and now to have it. This is the best senior year.”
Poolesville head coach Fran DuVall said after falling down two sets to none, she told her team they had, “Been there, done that.”
Kenneweg said her team didn't want to go home in three sets.
“We played Damascus, our rivals and we were down 2-0 and we brought it back and went to five and pulled it out that time,” Kenneweg said. “I think we never want to go home in three. That's not how we want to go home, so we switched it around. We all told ourselves that we could do this, and we changed it around.”
Rosie Barry led the Falcons with 21 kills and Kenneweg led with 29 digs.