Patuxent Coach Kevin Keller called it amazing. Poolesville Coach Fran DuVall said it was the way a Maryland 2A championship match should be played. Panthers outside hitter Madison Scott summed it up in one word.
Saturday’s title match at the University of Maryland’s Ritchie Coliseum was everything a state title match should be — and then some. After two hours of screaming crowds, long rallies, sprawling digs and sizable momentum swings, Scott’s kill in the fifth set ended it. The Panthers won a thriller, 25-21, 25-22, 20-25, 24-26, 15-13, capturing their first state title since 2002.
“It’s just the whole experience is so surreal,” said Underwood, one of the team’s seven seniors. “I’ve never been happier. And it’s like a calm happy, too, because it really hasn’t [sunk in yet].”
On their road to the championship match, the Panthers (17-3) grew accustomed to overcoming deficits. After taking the first two sets, Patuxent dropped the next two, and suddenly all of the momentum was in the Falcons’ favor.
So the Panthers made some of their own. Trailing by three points in the fifth set, they won six points in a row. Underwood had a pair of critical kills before Scott (15 kills, six digs, two blocks) finished it off.
“[Giving up] is not in our dictionary,” senior Sabrina Roberts said.
The victory had still not set in for the Panthers after the match. But for Poolesville (18-1), the feeling of defeat came quickly.
“When you’re losing 15-13 in the fifth, it could go to anyone,” DuVall said. “That’s a roll of the dice. The dice didn’t roll our way.”
Early this season, the Panthers wrote down their goals on sheets of paper. Keller recently looked back at the sheets and noticed two common answers: a Southern Maryland Athletic Conference championship and a state championship.
“You have to think that way in order to obtain. Shoot for the moon, and if you come up a little short, you’re still way up there,” Keller said. “But they shot for the moon and got it.”