Panthers prevail over Byng for first LM girls title

It was just as dramatic as the score indicates.

And while the winning point was on a double-fault, the Moscrop Panthers were too busy celebrating to be concerned about the artistry.

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Winning the school’s first Lower Mainland senior girls title was nothing short of amazing for the crew. By prevailing 3-2 over the Lord Byng Grey Ghosts, the Panthers captured not only a major prize but also the zone’s No. 1 seed heading to the B.C.s next week in Penticton.

“It was energy draining,” remarked Moscrop coach Kim Or of the tournament, which the Burnaby secondary co-hosted. “You often hear people, coaches complain about the draw but we talked about not complaining (at the start) but dealing with what’s ahead, and we knew we had to go through Handsworth and Lord Byng (to win).”

Saturday’s final followed the rollercoaster route, with Moscrop winning the first set before succumbing in the next two. Trailing 2-1 to a lineup that included national team member Katarina Pantovic, the Burnaby squad found a calmer middle ground and proceeded to steal back the momentum.

“We knew they’d be going to (Pantovic), that she would be getting most of the balls,” said Or. “Our game plan was to dig, dig and embrace it.”

In the key fourth set, Byng looked to close it out and built up a lead but Moscrop rallied, pulling out the win to force the fifth and decisive set.

“We were up 14-10, then Lord Byng crept back and I had to call a time out,” recalled Kim. “The girls were focused. Lily (Xu) hit a beautiful volley to make it 15-14, then Maddie (Richardson) served it and (Byng) got called for a double (touch) and that was it.”

It was the first-ever Lower Mainland senior girls title in volleyball for Moscrop. Or remembers a handful of years ago reaching that same target while coaching the senior boys team.

The celebration was short, as the players soon began to help clean up from the tourney.

“It’s a show of resilience,” added Or of his team’s performance. “It’s so hard to win the Lower Mainlands, and when you lose two (sets) in the final you’re going through so many emotions.

“We mentioned (at 2-1) that they shouldn’t focus on the score, that for it to go five (sets) both teams are going to lose twice.”

Now the squad prepares for the 20-team AAAA provincials, which kick off Nov. 29 in Penticton. As a zone champion, and having spent much of the year ranked in the top 10, the Panthers are expected to be slotted as a favourite in their pool. But Or said seeding doesn’t guarantee a thing.

“Anything can happen,” he said. “What’s important is they believe in themselves. (Winning the Lower Mainlands) was a real good result for them. Now whatever happens is a bonus.”

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