Panthers prowl to sr. girls league title

They’re far from a chain gang, but the Moscrop senior girls Panthers are all about the work.

And whether they’ve heard the Sam Cooke song, Working on a Chain Gang, they seem to know the rhythm.

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Following coach Kim Or’s favourite meme, the Grade 12-heavy squad capped an undefeated run through league play with a 3-0 win over the Burnaby North Vikings in the playoff final Wednesday, advancing to next week’s Lower Mainlands as the No. 1 seed.

And to ask the players, the reason for that success was work, work and more work.

“Our coach always says, you win, just go back to work. If you lose, go back to work. All this rah-rah doesn’t matter – just go back to work,” remarked middle blocker Alana Leung.

It continued to work in their favour, as they strode to a convincing 25-12 first game win. In the second set, the Vikings put up a tough front and were deadlocked until the home team’s Lily Xu and Leung combined on a big block to put the Panthers up 9-8.

From that point Moscrop wedged ahead en route to a 25-21 decision.

They completed the win 25-11 to improve to 10-0 against local competition.

Ranked No. 7 in AAAA, Moscrop’s main focus this year was to take last year’s lessons – which saw them fall to Burnaby Central in the league final but finish third at the Lower Mainlands and 14th at the B.C.s – and work it through.

“After losing (last year) to Central, and that was great for them, it really felt good to redeem ourselves this time,” noted Sung. “I really appreciated this opportunity. It fired us up, and I wanted to prove to our school that we could fight for that banner.”

The Vikings put up a valiant battle, but came away overwhelmed in the end. Still, they demonstrated a lot of moxie in staying within striking distance for parts of the night.

“This was definitely one of our best games as a team. We put in a lot of effort,” North captain Elisa Echelli said. “I’m proud of how we did. It wasn’t the result we exactly expected, but Moscrop is a great team and they’ve got great sportsmanship.”

In the semifinal, the Panthers faced a scrappy Burnaby South squad that took the first game. Moscrop saw it as a chance to put into practice the even-keel approach preached by coach Or, and it all came out well with a 3-1 decision.

It put them in a good space heading into Wednesday’s final, Leung said.

“We were struggling a bit (against Burnaby South). Their setter is amazing, they can defend like crazy – we were hitting it, and they were just digging it up. They were at the top of their game.”

Despite the perfect record in league competition, the Panthers have been tested. Or points to a couple of key tournaments where his players answered the challenge: at the start of the season at UBC and last week at the Red Serge in PoCo.

“We did very well (in PoCo),” said Or. “The last group I took there went in and didn’t win any sets. (They) got hammered but still ended up doing well at provincials. This group, not only did we win two and finished second in our group, we over-achieved.”

Now they, along with the Vikings and third-place Rebels, head to the Lower Mainlands next week – which Moscrop, Burnaby Central and Burnaby South are co-hosting – with bolstered confidence but also a target on their backs as a top-10 ranked team.

“It’s so hard having a target on your back,” noted Or. “(Burnaby) North had nothing to lose. I’ve been preaching to them, ‘Play the moment, stay composed. Anything good, go back to work; anything bad, go back to work. Just stay the course.’ It’s grit, perseverance and all that stuff.

“This is truly, truly a team. Everybody has a share in it.”

Earning all-star honours were Moscrop’s Fiona Chen and Sung, North’s Audrey Tsung and Gianinna Masellis, Burnaby Central’s Elysse Wong and Burnaby South’s Lauren Chong.

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