Panthers spring back after scare

DIGGING IN: Heckel Liu hits hardwood to scoop up a William Lyon Mackenzie attack during coed volleyball action.

A sense of confidence exuded from Victoria Park Panthers Dana Choi and Heckel Liu after their volleyball battle with William Lyon Mackenzie.

The coed squad won 3-1 (25-15, 25-14, 20-25, 25-20) April 27 but not without a little hubris factoring into a third-set surge by the Lyons.

Liu was honest about Vic Park’s more subdued third set.

“We got a bit conceited — we thought we could win and then we had substitutes,” he said while standing postgame beside his captain, Choi.

“We made a lot of unnecessary errors,” she added.

Panthers coach Maja Pandurevic agreed both the over-confidence and substitutions played a role in the game’s only blemish.

“Our head wasn’t in the game as much so we lost the concentration we originally had going in.”

Heading into the first, Victoria Park saw strong service from Nareesa Nathas, who with a little help from Choi at the net, led her squad to an early 5-2 lead.

Mackenzie’s attempt at keeping pace were nullified by Sean Kim’s kills from behind the three-foot line. The Lyons would lose the set on an unfortunate over-the-line serve by Linda Chen.

Consistent service from Henry Chan and Nathos kept the Panthers prowling the court in the second, as they jumped out to an early 8-3 lead. The Lyons would have a mid-set surge but once Liu was back in ball control, the lead grew.

The story behind the Lyons comeback and subsequent push for a fifth came to the slowing down of play by setter Lilla Balog, and the potent striking of Daniel Pappas. Service by Chen also pulled Mackenzie ahead.

Coach Pam Aquino credited her charges’ quick turnaround by finding their natural rhythm.

“I think they played a lot slower than they usually do but then as the game went on they gained a little more confidence, especially our setter,” she said. “We (also) had our best blocking game than we have had before which really kept us in the game.”

Lyon Andrew Lim also sett the spiking standard when confronted with return shots by Panthers Choi and Chan.

By the fourth set both teams were vying for points, stretching attacks into long rallies. Victoria Park’s Kim led the charge to reclaim the lead after being down 9-5.

In the final stretch, the Panthers were up 22-20, and with Chan serving, Liu punctuated his team’s yen to win with a tremendous kill. He would eventually score the game-winning point.

Choi was both relieved and pleased with the result.

“We regrouped, told each other we had to focus and wake up, play smart,” she said. “It really worked.”

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