In her travels, my colleague Nancy Haggerty also made a camp stop at Walter Panas to see the reigning Class A section and regional champions, who return a decent amount of last year’s squad. Here’s my preview to the Panthers, along with some information Nancy gathered on Monday:
After a record-setting season last year, in which Panas captured its first section and regional championships in program history, the bar is essentially just as high for the Panthers this season.
Not for nothing, they are my top-ranked team to start the season.
Returning to the court this year will be second-team all-state middle hitter Shaina Campbell, defensive specialist Victoria Fletcher, setter Allie Patriciello, and reigning Journal News Westchester/Putnam player of the year Brigitte Burcescu.
The Panthers, who posted a 20-5 overall record last year, lost just four seniors to graduation, although many played significant roles. Luckily for Panas, this year’s returnees should fill the majority of those holes.
Fletcher will have the biggest responsibility in replacing libero Floriana Rraci, who had a breakout senior campaign. Rraci, who will stay local when playing for Mercy College this fall, emerged as one of the top liberos in the section, drawing praise from several area coaches.
Patriciello (below) should be a catalyst of the Panther offense as the team’s setter, combining talent with vocal leadership on the floor.
Despite losing outside hitter Lauren Perri, the Panthers still have Burcescu and Campbell, two Division 1 commits who will provide a devastating 1-2 punch for Panas. Burcescu orally committed to Northeastern over the summer, while we first learned of Campbell’s commitment to Iona College in New Rochelle on Monday, when she informed Nancy of the decision.
Both Campbell and Burcescu want to improve certain aspects of their games before reaching the next level. Campbell said she wants to develop a “tough and hard serve,” while Burcescu is looking to hone her defensive skills and get physically stronger. Both think that the team’s chemistry will lead to another very successful season.
Campbell told Nancy that she thinks Panas will because the team “communicates well with each other.” Burcescu (below) cited the team’s offense as a major plus for this season.
The season is shaping up to be a big one for Burcescu, in particular. After breaking her older sister Vivian’s school records for kills in a match and a single season, Felipe expects even bigger things from the 6-foot-1 hitter this year.
Felipe told Nancy that Burcescu will “shatter” her older sister’s career kills record this season. Burcescu’s younger sister, Yvette, who already stands at 5-foot-11, will join the varsity roster as an eighth grader.
In addition to hosting its 10th annual Panther Invitational on October 12, Panas will play in a Burnt Hills tournament on September 7 and the prestigious Garden State Challenge on October 6-7 at Ramapo College.
Photo credits: Nancy Haggerty