By Rob Potter
MONTICELLO October 19, 2007 The Monticello Lady Panthers’ hopes of an undefeated volleyball season were dashed on Monday afternoon.
In front of a raucous, standing-room-only crowd in the Monticello High School gymnasium, the Cornwall Lady Dragons gave the Lady Panthers their first loss of the season.
Cornwall took an early lead in each game and gradually extended that advantage on its way to sweeping Monticello, 25-16, 25-20, 25-12, in an Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA) Division II match.
Cornwall improved its record to 12-1 overall and 11-1 in Division II. Monticello fell to 13-1 overall and 12-1 in Division II.
“They outplayed us in every facet of the game today,” Monticello Coach Karen Atack said. “Cornwall is a superb team and they played very well.”
While not taking anything away from the Lady Dragons, Atack noted that her team struggled in certain areas of the game.
“This is our 14th match of the season and there hasn’t been a match where all six of our players on the court played together,” she said. “That should not be happening at this point of the season.”
“And we did not have an ace today, that’s the first time that has happened this season,” Atack added.
The match was tied four times early in the first game. But three hitting errors by Monticello and two aces by junior defensive specialist/outside hitter Jacqueline Bailey allowed the Lady Dragons to take a 12-7 advantage.
Moments later, the Lady Panthers closed the gap to 13-10 on a kill by senior setter/outside hitter Polly Palhano. But Cornwall outscored Monticello 11-6 the rest of the game.
Game 2 also featured a few ties and small leads for the Lady Dragons. A few minutes into the game, Cornwall took an 11-8 lead. But two straight kills by senior setter/outside hitter Emily Drobysh and an ace by Palhano allowed the Lady Panthers to tie the score at 11-11.
Monticello took a brief 22-20 lead on a kill by Palhano and an hitting error by Cornwall. The Lady Dragons quickly regained the lead but a dig by Drobysh cut that advantage to 24-23.
However, Cornwall sophomore middle blocker Alexandra Gagliano made a kill to give her team the game, 25-23.
In game 3, Bailey and sophomore setter Rachel Zsido served aces to help the Lady Dragons jump out to an 18-8 lead. Monticello could not get closer than seven points the rest of the game.
Cornwall Coach Jeff Moulton noted that his team was motivated for the match because the Lady Dragons’ only defeat this autumn came at the hands of the Lady Panthers when the teams played last month at Cornwall. In that match, Monticello prevailed in the first game and Cornwall took the next two games. But the Lady Panthers rallied to win the fourth and fifth games.
“We were more consistent today and that made a big difference,” Moulton said. “We served better this time against Monticello. Our serve percentage today was probably about 90 percent.”
Moulton said he didn’t want his team to be intimidated by playing in front of such a large, partisan crowd.
“It told them before the match there were two ways it could go,” he said. “They could be nervous and go out and let the crowd get to them or they could be a little nervous but go out and just play. That’s what they did they went out and just played good volleyball.”
Leading Cornwall to the victory were Gagliano, senior setter/outside hitter Karin Edsall and senior setter Samantha Kelly. Gagliano had 12 kills, four blocks and two digs, Edsall finished with nine kills, eight digs and two aces and Kelly recorded 18 assists, four digs, one ace and one kill.
Drobysh and Palhano paced the Lady Panthers. Drobysh had 13 kills, six digs, three points and two blocks, while Palhano registered 10 assists, seven kills, five blocks and one dig.
Also contributing for Monticello were Jordan Kunis (eight points) and Eryn Robinson (four points).
Atack records milestone victory
The Lady Panthers’ victory on October 12 at Goshen was extra special for Atack.
The Monties’ triumph in the OCIAA Division II match gave Atack her 300th career win. Following Monday’s match with Cornwall, Atack’s career won-lost record stands at 300-66.
While pleased with reaching the milestone, Atack was quick to acknowledge several people who have helped her achieve so many wins since she became the head varsity volleyball coach at Monticello back in 1990. Among those Atack mentioned were her parents, whom she noted instilled a good work ethic in her from a young age, all of the athletes who have played for her during her 18 seasons as varsity coach, Mary Bury and Ed Kaufmann.
Bury coached the Lady Panthers’ varsity squad before Atack took over. Bury then served as the Monticello modified volleyball coach for several seasons. Kaufmann is the Monticello junior varsity volleyball coach, a position he has held for many years.
Atack explained that she, Bury and Kaufmann worked together to build up the volleyball program at Monticello.
“We worked to teach them teamwork and sportsmanship, to build their character and encourage them to work hard,” Atack said of the hundreds of players who have competed for Monticello since 1990.
Over the years, Atack has guided the Lady Panthers to 10 conference championships, four Section IX titles and eight Section IX runner-up finishes.
Six of those Monticello teams that won conference championships also finished the season with undefeated records.
In addition, Atack’s squads have earned two OCIAA Sportsmanship Awards and one New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Scholar Athlete Championship.
In 2001, Atack was honored by her fellow volleyball coaches as the Section IX Coach of the Year.