Turns out the third time was the charm for the Northshore High Panther volleyball squad.
The fourth-seeded Panthers got past No. 20 Mandeville in four games Saturday morning in the Division I regional round of the playoffs 25-20, 25-20 22-25 and 25-18 to advance to the state quarterfinals in the Pontchartrain Center beginning Thursday in Kenner.
Senior Carly Merry led the way for Northshore with 18 kills. Fellow senior Annelise Vollenweider had 10. Kristin Fogan was the defensive leader for the Panthers with 12 kills, while Amanda Giardina had a game-high 43 assists.
“It was great for the seniors in our last home match to defend our house,” Merry said. “It was an exciting way to wrap up your home career and now we go to the Pontchartrain Center and see what happens.”
Northshore will take on No. 5 Dominican on Thursday at a time still to be determined. The Panthers swept past Dominican in its season opener on Aug. 31 in three games. It will be the third consecutive trip to the Pontchartrain Center for the Panthers. The school’s best finish was a state semifinal berth in 2012.
“I think we are capable of anything (in the Pontchartrain Center),” Giardina said. “For us, it is all about staying mentally focused. If we can do that, then we can do some special things next week.”
In a battle between the two teams that shared the District 5-II crown despite Northshore sweeping the season series, Game 1 was a competitive back-and-forth affair. Both teams held leads in the opening game. Leading 15-14, the Panthers (23-10) made their move late, going on an 8-3 run to take a 23-17 advantage en route to the 1-0 advantage.
Mandeville (15-21) didn’t go away quietly, running out to a 6-1 advantage in the second game and had a 12-9 lead. Much like in the first game, the Northshore run proved to be the difference as the Panthers went on an 11-4 run this time to take a 20-16 lead and the pivotal 2-0 lead in the match.
The Skippers again refused to surrender their season, coming back from a 7-1 deficit in the third game to avoid the sweep and force a fourth game.
Fittingly, it was another run in the fourth game that sent the Panthers to the state quarterfinals. Tied 12-12, the Panthers finished the match on a 13-6 run to punch their ticket to the Pontchartrain Center.
Taylor Pierce and Gabby Oos led the way for the Skippers with 11 kills apiece. In their final games in a MHS uniform, seniors Renae Bertheaud had 24 digs and Victoria Songe had 34 assists.
“This was a young group, and I certainly believe we are moving in the right direction,” Mandeville coach Rachel Lindelow said. “Today, unfortunately, we just didn’t have all the right pieces.”